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Are Metaphysical First Principles Universally True?

Today, certain lines of attack against classical proofs for God’s existence, such as St. Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways, seek to undermine foundational metaphysical first principles such as causality, sufficient reason, or even non-contradiction.1

Such attacks employ, for example, claims that (1) David Hume’s critique of causality is definitive, (2) the existence of the cosmos is simply a “brute fact,” needing no explanation, and (3) modern physics shows that the principle of non-contradiction is routinely violated at the submicroscopic level.

While some “self-evident first principles” appear to hold good for the macroscopic world of everyday experience, they are said to fail in the world of submicroscopic subatomic particles. The famous wave/particle experiments are said to prove that a photon can manifest both as a wave and as its contradictory particle at the same time and in the same place. Some physicists thereby claim that submicroscopic reality regularly violates this most basic metaphysical axiom: that a being cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.

Yet, these very experiments presuppose the universal validity of said principle, both at the macroscopic scale and at the submicroscopic scale–the latter of which being the level at which it allegedly reveals it is violated. That is, at the submicroscopic scale, the scale at which experimental readings are being taken, the principle is implicitly accepted as inviolable. If a photon manifests as a particle, the experimenter notes that it is a particle. He does not simultaneously allow that it might not manifest as a particle, but as a wave. Observations must be read as they are, not as possibly the opposite–or else, no inferences could be drawn from the experiments. The intelligibility of the wave/particle experiments presuppose the submicroscopic validity of the very principle claimed to be violated. Whatever the actual explanation, no inference against the principle of non-contradiction can be intelligible, since the submicroscopic observations on which the inference is based presuppose its validity.

Others deny the metaphysical principle that from nothing, nothing comes to be, by claiming that particles can pop in and out of existence out of nothing according to Quantum Mechanics (QM). Some speculate entire universes can be so created out of a quantum vacuum. But, according to QM, a quantum vacuum is not really nothing. It is merely the lowest energy state of a quantum field. By “nothing,” the philosopher really means nothing, nothing at all–not the relative “nothing,” which is actually the “something” of the quantum vacuum. Once clarified, the truth that you cannot get something from nothing becomes undeniable.

Still others assume Hume’s notion of “causality” as being a necessary association of mental impressions. Applied to modern science, this is seen as meaning that “given event A, event B will necessarily follow.” Granted, no such universal predictability exists, since something could always interfere with event B. Still, Hume’s notion simply is not the classical metaphysical understanding of causality. In classical metaphysics, if a being or event lacks a sufficient reason for its existence or coming-to-be within itself, then some extrinsic agent must be posited to account for what is lacking in self-explanation. That extrinsic agent is called a cause. Attacking a “causality” that is simply not the one being used by classical metaphysicians in no way furthers the argument of atheists.

Many atheists assume that the universe is its own explanation, and thus, a transcendent deity is unnecessary. More radically, some simply refuse to admit that the cosmos’ existence needs any explanation at all. Of course, the whole point of proofs for God is to disprove such claims and to demonstrate that finite being is unintelligible without an Infinite Being.2

Atheist Kai Nielsen writes, “It is certainly very natural to reject the principle of sufficient reason and to say that it has not been established that there must be … an explanation for everything.”3 The practical problem with Nielsen’s move is that we then have no way of knowing when anything at all needs an explanation. If some things have no explanation, perhaps, nothing has an explanation–thereby rendering all reality unintelligible, including the universal explanations of phenomena offered by modern science. The intellectual suicide of denying all reason is far worse than the claim that the cosmos simply explains itself–a claim of aseity, which can be dispatched by proper use of the proofs for God’s existence.

Attacking metaphysical first principles, modern atheists and agnostics reject the foundational insights of any proof for God’s existence. The natural metaphysics of human intelligence seeks to understand the created world in terms of the intelligibility of finite being. In attempting to grasp the “why” of finite phenomena, proofs for God’s existence arise naturally, since the mind of man rightly suspects that the things of this world do not fully explain themselves, and thus, need extrinsic explanation. Human intelligence follows the path from finite effects, searching for an adequate causal explanation. Metaphysical reasoning inevitably demands assent to the existence of an Ultimate Cause of all creatures, a Cause that is quickly recognized in terms of the classical understanding of God.4

The ultimate irony lies in skeptics attacking first principles used in such proofs, when these same atheists and agnostics necessarily use these same principles themselves in everything they say and do. Every statement in atheist arguments claims to express some truth. Yet, it is a basic principle of logic that the same predicate cannot both be affirmed and denied of the same subject at the same time. This is simply the principle of non-contradiction expressed in logical form. If any interlocutor wishes to make an argument against the proofs for God, he must do so in terms allegedly true. He cannot simultaneously be affirming that said claims are equally false. In a word, all arguments against God’s existence must obey the metaphysical principle of non-contradiction, or else, they are rendered meaningless. As in the case of the wave/particle experiments cited above, the attacks on the principle of non-contradiction presuppose the validity of the very principle they attack. So much for claims made against the principle of non-contradiction.

As to the need for reasons or causes, anyone making a philosophical claim must give reasons for his claim. No one can simply make a claim and expect it to be accepted just because he said it. The question instantly arises, “Why do you make this claim?” The claimant must give reasons for his claim, and the reasons must be adequate–or else, no one will listen to him. In other words, the reasons given for a claim stand as causes of the truth of the claim in the hearer’s mind. Absent adequate and sufficient reasons being given, the initial claim will be dismissed as warrantless–and properly so. Philosophical claims require adequate reasons for their truth. They do not stand of themselves. As such, they stand as effects of causes, which causes (or premises) are the extrinsic reasons for the claims’ truth being known in the mind.

Ironically, David Hume, the philosopher most famous for attacking the principle of causality, apparently could not write a book in English without using the word, “because,” or some equivalent expression, throughout–constantly explaining, as we all must do, why what he is saying ought to be believed.

In a word, the principles of non-contradiction, sufficient reason, and causality are all presupposed by those atheists or agnostics attacking their application in the proofs for God’s existence.

But is this merely a matter of linguistics? No. The reason we seek explanation of the truth of philosophical claims is precisely because we want intellectual assurance that the claims made are supported by reasons that reflect a real world foundation for their claimed truth. Otherwise, philosophical arguments would become nothing but the ravings of lunatics, bearing no relation whatever to extramental realities. If the laws of thought do not reflect the actual laws of being, then the mind becomes utterly useless as an instrument with which to know the real. More importantly, unless everything has a reason, we could never tell whether a thing has a reason or not–thereby effectively destroying the connection between thought and reality, since there would be no necessary reason why reality need correspond to thought. Science would be irrational, since no explanation for anything would ever be required.

A being lacking sufficient reason has no explanation for existence either within or outside itself, which means nothing differentiates it from non-being. Yet, the actual act of existence of every being does differentiate it from non-being. Since such self-contradiction is impossible, every being must have a reason for being.

How can we be sure of the truth of these first metaphysical principles, which permeate the foundations of, not only the proofs for God’s existence, but all aspects of the real world? Consider again the basic truth that from nothing, nothing comes to be. Does anyone genuinely doubt its validity once we remove the false concept of “nothingness” proposed by Quantum Mechanics? Its truth is immediately evident to every human intellect that is not playing games with words. We “see” clearly that absolute non-being provides no reason whatever for the coming-to-be of anything–and that is why it cannot come to be. Why do we see this so clearly? How can we be so sure?

The explanation of this absolute certitude about this basic principle of being is that the human intellect is designed to “see” being with perfect certitude, just as the sun naturally illuminates the sky. Were it otherwise, all the logic in the world could never assure us of any knowledge of reality whatsoever. The mind sees being, even if we cannot account for how its nature enables it to do so. Similarly, sight enables us to see even though there is no adequate explanation as to how this is actually possible. (Biological explanations alone do not actually explain sensory experience.) Once the human intellect first encounters any being whatever, it forms a concept of being that endows it with immediate grasp of its universal application–an application possessed with absolute certitude.

What if we were told that there is something on the other side of the cosmos of which we know absolutely nothing, even as to whether it exists or not? What could we say about it? Nothing? Not so. We instantly would know that either it exists or not. And, if it does, it is what it is, it cannot both be and not be, it needs a reason for existence, and lacking a full reason for existence within itself, something else must exist to make up for whatever is not fully explained by itself. These are immediately known first principle certitudes that we can and do, with apodictic assurance, apply validly to this hypothetical unknown entity on the other side of the cosmos.

As with Kant, these principles hold good for all possible experience; unlike Kant, these principles are transcendentally valid, that is, they apply universally to all being in itself. That is because they are based on the intellect’s grasp of the universal nature of being or existence itself–not on some limited essence which applies to only a certain limited expression of existence, such as “macroscopic,” “intramental,” or “phenomena.”

Once one encounters and grasps what is essential to water, that knowledge holds good for all possible water. Still, one might encounter some non-water, whose essence would be unknown. But, once one grasps what is essential to being, that knowledge holds good for all possible being. One will never encounter non-being.

Nor is there another system of philosophy or method of natural science that escapes the basic truths stated above, since every system or method asserts claims in absolute terms and must give reasons for its claims. Even claims that such and such is merely probable or possible assert in absolute terms the claim itself. To say that something is possible is to affirm absolutely a condition of reality compatible with it happening. He who says anything less says nothing at all. Philosophers love to affirm that they are right and everyone else is wrong. That itself is to accept the principle of non-contradiction. The moment they concede the need to give reasons for their brilliant insights, they thereby also concede the principles of sufficient reason and causality. Following the principle of non-contradiction, either the intellect is a trustworthy cognitive power or it is not. If it is not, then all knowledge is a useless charade–and even this inference itself is meaningless. Unless the intellect actually reflects being itself, it bears no relation to reality–again, making it utterly worthless, even less so than the subjective reality of an hallucination.

How is all this possible? Simply because the mind or intellect is made to know being, and to know it with certitude in terms of its basic principles. How is it made this way? We haven’t a clue. To know the answer to this would be to be the One who made the intellect, and we are not He.

But, if we cannot explain how the intellect comes to possess this immediate grasp of being, how can it actually be relied upon? Consider the example of skipping down the stairs two at a time. Presuming we can do this successfully, we know we are doing it in the very act of doing it. But, do we know exactly how we are doing it? Do we reflect on how we do it at that precarious moment? Likely not! Or else, we would doubtless wind up in the emergency room. In other words, skipping down the stairs and knowing that one is doing it are not identical to being able to explain precisely how we do it. Yet, that does not lessen the fact that we are doing it and know with immediacy the truth that we are performing the act–even though, at that same time, we cannot possibly be reflecting on how we are doing it without risking breaking our necks!

So, too, the intellect knows immediately, from the concept of being (which it forms from its very first experience of anything at all), the metaphysical first principles that (1) contradictions are impossible, (2) things must have reasons, and (3) failing to have reasons of themselves, things need extrinsic reasons or causes to explain themselves. These self-evident metaphysical first principles are necessarily employed even by those who deny their existence, and most certainly, validly apply to the Five Ways of St. Thomas Aquinas as well as to other legitimate metaphysical proofs for God’s existence and to any and all aspects of the real world.

Notes:

  1. See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3; see also, Summa contra gentiles, I, 13, 15.
  2. See Dennis Bonnette, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence (Martinus-Nijhoff: The Hague, 1972).
  3. Kai Nielsen, Reason and Practice: A Modern Introduction to Philosophy (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1971), 181.
  4. Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I, qq. 3-11.
Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

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  • samnigromd

    Thank you! Outstanding samizat for atheists. There is more than this craziness. The mind knows such and so does physics with the singularity and the infinity needed along with the Pre-Big Bang Statimuum. Thank you!

  • Radioactive decay / QM is searchable on Feser's blog. The misunderstandings there are not uncommon and the various threads there are helpful in clarification. It is imperative for the Non-Theist to refute, at any cost, various first principles for the simple reason that he must do so in order to justify his eventual downstream embrace of reductions to absurdity. Otherwise various first principles in fact sum to proofs of the insolvency of his paradigm.

    • Agreed. I don't think it is that hard to refute the first principles of theists.

      • It's quite easy actually, your downstream embraces of the forced absurdity essentially guaranteeing your success.

  • Steven Dillon

    I've seen Richard Carrier argue that in a state of genuine nothingness, there would be no metaphysical laws, including the law that from nothing, nothing comes. As such, he maintains, there would be nothing to prevent something coming from nothing. But, then, something could come from nothing! I think he's partly right: in a state of genuine nothingness, there would be nothing to prevent something coming from nothing. But, that still wouldn't mean that something could arise out of nothing. It's not like there would be a potential for something to come about that would actuate if only there were no metaphysical laws around to hold it back: we're talking about complete and utter nothingness after all, not some potential.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      You address this point very well. Recall also, that the mere possibility that something should exist is not enough to make it exist. You also need to have existing some cause able to actually produce the effect.

      One must also recall that when we say that God creates "out of nothing," this does not mean that He takes some "nothing" and makes it into something. If absolutely nothing existed, nothing would ever exist. Creation proceeds from the power of God, who is an existing being.

      • flan man

        Recall also, that the mere possibility that something should exist is not enough to make it exist.

        Within the universe we see. We have no way of knowing what conditions apply prior to, or outside the universe, or however way you want to phrase it. You don't. You simply can't.

      • True. The voyage from non-being to being finds, in the Christian metaphysic, the "Principal of Proportionate Causality" as per https://www.str.org/blog/good-fathers-are-apologetic-good-god#comment-3378885115 ... Meanwhile some of our Non-Theist friends hold on to their evidence-free faith that, in some reality somewhere, in some metaphysic somewhere, (actual) *nothing* can (actually), all by *itself*, birth (actual) universes.

        That annihilation of all epistemological lines fueled by the evidence-free reminds us of your recent discussion here at SN on Naturalism's epistemological nightmares.

        We find there a journey into the irreducible constitutions within the voyage from non-being traversing an ocean of proportionate causality and crossing into being. That voyage will always end in a cheat and an equivocation for our Non-Theist friends. Whereas, such cheating is not the case with reality's ontological history of becoming in and by the final ontic-referent in the Christian term "GOD / Being Itself".

      • A cross reference on the principle of proportionate causality: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-without-second.html?m=1

        • flan man

          Well, you know us non-theists, we have to make do with our non-eyewitness testimony and such. We get by, in our poor way.

          The difference between us is: we can both read this and one of us thinks this actually means something:

          We find there a journey into the irreducible constitutions within the voyage from non-being traversing an ocean of proportionate causality and crossing into being. That voyage will always end in a cheat and an equivocation for our Non-Theist friends. Whereas, such cheating is not the case with reality's ontological history of becoming in and by the final ontic-referent in the Christian term "GOD / Being Itself".

          Sorry, buddy, but irreducible constitutions traversing oceans of proportionality landing on the shore of being. I can't take it seriously. I know this is your thing, but be aware nobody outside your little circle will take you seriously. Very few actual philosophers will take it seriously outside Feser's circle. Outside that circle, it's 99% of the world that will realize you're doing a good toss up of word salad.

          • It's not hard. There's non-being. Then there's causality proportionate to the effect. Then there's being. One can swap "nothing" for "non-being" given Bonnette's clarification of "nothing". A faith in the potential for a metaphysic somewhere in which nothing or non-being births universes or being is fine. It's just not evidence based.

          • Sorry, on "irreducible", that's just pointing to non-being or nothing as terms which are not reducible to an equivocation such as being or such as something.

    • I think you are right and actually this discussion of "a state of nothing" and "nothingNESS" draws out that such speculation is incoherent. The terminology implies a something.

      I think it is better to avoid such terms in these discussions. Better to frame it as questions of can things exist uncaused? What does it mean for something to be its own reason, and how do we distinguish what kinds of things can be their own reason?

      • flan man

        Can things exist uncaused? Apparently. Whether it's God or simply the sum of the universe is the discussion point.

        How do we distinguish what kinds of things can be their own reason?
        We can't. We're locked inside the universe and unable to know. Any statement otherwise is applying conditions that apply within the universe and working backwards until you decide to stop at some always existing thing (which may not be a thing. But will constantly be referred to as a thing, and a thing that acts like a thing, but brother, it ain't a thing, trust me)

        • "Can things exist uncaused?"

          I don't know and I don't know if we will ever be able to know.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Thanks for posting this Dr. Bonnette. I especially appreciate it as I believe it is at least partly in response to my prodding you to elaborate on this issue.

    It seems to me that with respect to ex nihilo nihil fit, one really has to first clarify -- not only what one means by "no-thing", but also -- what one means by "thing". Just as the atheist may equivocate on "nothing" by identifying "nothing" with the quantum vacuum, so the theist may in some sense equivocate on "thing", by saying that God is, analogically, a thing.

    In a univocal sense, God is nothing. That is, God is not a thing in the same sense that every created thing is a thing. So, from this univocal perspective, whatever came from God did in fact come from no-thing. So, on theism and with "thingness" understood univocally, ex nihilo nihil fit is actually dogmatically incorrect.

    Would you agree?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I fear we are overworking the term, “thing,” here. Thing is equivalent to res,
      which is the transcendental equivalent to essence. It is not properly equivalent to being.

      When we say “no-thing,” it really should mean “no being at all,” which I think is clearer. Since God is Pure Being, created being does come from being, not from non-being.

      Explained as I have just done, ex nihilo nihil fit is absolutely correct.

    • Rob Abney

      It's interesting that you feel he's responding to your prodding from his previous OP, but I feel like this is a subject that he has taught and discussed and written on for many years, and I wonder why we haven't seen it so clearly presented more often!

      • Dennis Bonnette

        You caught me out! I have been teaching metaphysics for fifty years and my doctoral dissertation was in it.

        • Rob Abney

          I'm very glad that you are still willing to engage in the "new evangelization". I am learning a lot from your participation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thanks. But I am running out of time today to do it!

  • "The ultimate irony lies in skeptics attacking first principles used in
    such proofs, when these same atheists and agnostics necessarily use
    these same principles themselves in everything they say and do."

    But you haven't shown this. You've provided two examples, one of a phenomena that seems to violate the logical absolutes, that a photon seems to be both a particle and a wave; and Kai Nielson's suggestion that the principle of sufficient reason may not be universal.

    I would say that the logical absolutes are not metaphysical principles, they are logical principles. They are the foundation of logic. They are unassailable, and scientists agree that a photon or an electron cannot be both a particle and a wave. So they are investigating this problem. They are not abandoning the logical absolutes, nor are any atheists, as far as I can tell.

    With respect to the principle of sufficient reason, I am not sure why this must be universal? I don't see why if it is not applicable to ultimate issues, if cannot be applicable to secondary empirical questions. In any event, I have no problem accepting that this principle is universal and if it is, I do not see why it poses a problem for atheism.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Once again, if you have no problem accepting the principles, we have no issue as far as my OP is concerned. I did not say that all atheists reject them, and I am aware that one may be an atheist for other reasons. My only concern in this OP is to defend the first principles themselves.

      I defend the universality of sufficient reason two posts above, and, more importantly, in the OP -- which must be read carefully.

      As for logic, you must understand that logic is not something that Aristotle invented in itself. He first did correct reasoning, and then examined how this was accomplished, and then wrote out a treatise on the formal structures involved in correct reasoning. First, the mind knows reality, and only secondarily does it examine how it does so correctly -- by reflection. That is why logic examines the order of second intentions, while the first intentions are the direct knowledge we have of things. The metaphysical principle of non-contradiction is the basis for its logical correlative, namely, that the same predicate cannot be both affirmed and denied of the same subject.

      • Cool. I mean you would know better than I whether there is any real debate about the PSR in philosophical circles and the respectability of both sides. I see no reason to affirm or deny it in counter-apologetics.

        I would say that the suggestion that there are atheists or physicists out there denying the principle of non-contradiction is a straw man and I put it to you to name them.

        No I agree logic is not something that anyone invented, rather Aristotle articulated some logical principles.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          While I do not know his name, I did debate one physicist on the internet who strongly claimed that wave/particle duality routinely demonstrated the failure of non-contradiction at the submicroscopic subatomic scale. Moreover, I very recently encountered someone over on Estranged Notions who wrote this: "The principle of non-contradiction does not always apply, in part because identity, in science, bears little resemblance to the metaphysical concept of identity." I realize that most thinkers do not want to be caught outright denying the principle, but apparently there are some who do.

          Again, I am not too upset if everyone does accept this self-evident first principle.

          You may also notice that in my OP I give a defense of the PSR which is based on use of non-contradiction -- where I am talking about "differentiation" from non-being. So, those who deny the PSR would be, implicitly, if I am correct, also denying non-contradiction -- even if they do not admit so.

          • Fair enough.

            I don't see why you think you would be correct, why would saying "not all things have an explanation" mean you must accept that "some things can be what they are and what they are not"?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Look at the argument about "differentiation" in the OP. If a being without a sufficient reason can be argued to entail a contradiction, then no such being can exist. But beings do exist. So they must have reasons.

          • I do not think I see such an argument, rather just the statement: "A being lacking sufficient reason has no explanation for existence
            either within or outside itself, which means nothing differentiates it
            from non-being."

            What is the contradiction between: "A exists" and "A has no explanation for its existence"?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Here is the text from the OP:

            "A being lacking sufficient reason has no explanation for existence
            either within or outside itself, which means nothing differentiates it
            from non-being. Yet, the actual act of existence of every being does differentiate it from non-being. Since such self-contradiction is impossible, every being must have a reason for being."

            The second sentence gives the contradictory: such being is both differentiated from and not differentiated from non-being. Unless, of course, you say that there is nothing that actually differentiates a being from nothingness, in which case it does not actually exist.

          • "such being is both differentiated from and not differentiated from non-being"

            I am sorry I just do not see it. it is the fact of existence differentiates being from non-being, not whether or not the entity has an explanation.

            Needless to say, your formulation of "differentiating FROM non-being" is technically not coherent, as it implies "non-being" is an entity from which something can be differentiated, which contradicts any reasonable definition of "non-being". I am sure that is not what you meant.

            This is why I stated the issue, I think a little more clearly, as "A exists" and "A has no explanation for its existence". If you are correct, these two statements must result in a contradiction. I do not see any.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We are so used to discussing reality in merely logical categories today that we can fail to notice that to be a being is not merely a "fact." Here is where metaphysicians emphasize the reality of being. To be is an "act." It is an act whereby something is thrust into existence. If you think in purely essentialistic terms, this will mean nothing to you, since essences as such do not exist. An essence may be or not be. Of itself, it explains no reality. Existence is an act whereby the thing really is. Existence is not a definable term. Symbolic logicians engage in extremely complicated constructs to try to express this "fact."

            It is this "act" which distinguishes a being from non-being (and I am aware that non-being does not actually exist to act as a foundation for that distinguishing). But if you do not see that existence is a real act, there is little I can do to help you see that this "overcoming of nothingness" flatly contradicts the notion that no reason for being in a thing exists. That is what "explaining itself" means. Or else, something else must be sustaining that act whereby the being is thrust into existence. The contradiction lies in recognizing that this act which really explains why the thing is must be posited at the same time that no reason for existing is allowed.

            Fortunately, since you appear not convinced, the OP as a whole does not depend on this argument alone. Just as you will find that St. Thomas Aquinas gives multiple proofs for the same truth, my article offers multiple ways of establishing the truth of these first principles.

          • It seems your answer to ""A exists" and "A has no explanation for its existence" is that "To be is an "act." It is an act whereby something is thrust into existence"

            In other words only those things that have an explanation for their existence can be said to "exist".

            This seems to be begging the question.

            You are correct, I do not see existence as an act, but would describe the existence of objects as facts. I am open to being convinced to accept your definition if you can justify it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I suspect that we are at an impasse here that would be bigger than this thread! The notion of a fact appears to me denuded of existential vitality, whereas what I mean by act is better understood in reference to potency -- which makes for a very broad metaphysical discussion. Existence is the perfection of all perfections. It is not a mere statement of "fact," but that which makes essential qualities to be real. As such, it is itself not capable of strict definition, since definition belongs to a thing's essence. I would have to refer you to a bunch of Thomistic sources that you would not be inclined to accept anyway. As I said, fortunately, the validity of the principle of sufficient reason may rest in part on this argument, but it is not the only one available. It is but a single facet of the arguments of the whole OP.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Let me try once more to explain how lacking a sufficient reason turns something into a contradiction – while trying to avoid troublesome
            notions about “act” and “acts of existence.”

            Just to put this task in perspective, perhaps the greatest Thomist of the twentieth century, Pere Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, takes fully eleven pages of his book, God, His Existence, and His Nature, volume one, pp. 181-191, to defend the principle of sufficient reason. He does not finish until he has, in his typical fashion, demonstrated that denial of the PSR is not only impossible, but also absurd.

            So, please understand the problem I have doing this task in a few paragraphs.

            A being without any reason for being just happens to exist. It is called a contingent being. A man, a horse, a star, the whole cosmos, just happens to be. Nothing in its nature makes it exist. But if we can use the self-evident principle that ex nihilo nihil fit (from nothing nothing
            comes to be), a nature lacking existence cannot give existence to itself. That is, of itself neither is there any reason for its being nor, in fact, does it exist, since its nature lacks existence.

            And if, in addition, there is nothing outside of it that makes it exist, then it is properly called, uncaused. That is, it neither has existence from outside itself.

            But that which has existence neither from itself nor from outside itself, simply lacks all existence: it does not exist. And yet, every being does exist. Thus, an uncaused contingent being is a contradiction in terms. It both exists and yet it cannot exist. Such beings are impossible and
            absurd.

            But an “uncaused contingent being” is just another way of saying “a being without a sufficient reason.” Therefore, beings without sufficient
            reasons cannot exist. The contrary corollary to this is that every being must have a sufficient reason, or, more fully, every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be either within itself or from some extrinsic reason (a cause). The principle of sufficient reason is true.

          • Dennis, in the past you've said, "God is his own sufficient reason for all that he is and does". What is the sufficient reason why a god with an eternal non-necessary will exists?

          • Jim the Scott

            further proof This Person has not been paying attention for months

            >Dennis, in the past you've said, "God is his own sufficient reason for all that he is and does". What is the sufficient reason why a god with an eternal non-necessary will exists?

            I thought This Person said he understood AT Metaphysics? This question is one a Freshmen asks and I would have no problem with you answering it Doc B but I think you already have numerous time but This Person just ignores you and likely sees his insincere question as a pretense to repeat AGAIN one of his non-starter objections.

            This reminds me of how he told you that you don't know what you are talking about in regards to AT Physics but then mid debate asked you to fully explain to him the difference between a formal vs an efficient cause...

            Amazing........

            BTW the answer to his question is in your very post BUT he hasn't learned even the basics at this point. He is too busy re-imagining Thomism as neo-Descartes philosophy or Physics.

            He is just so amusing.

          • Jim the Scott

            PS.

            The reason God is an uncaused contingent being is that He is Pure Act without any passive potency (which This Person in the past has confused with active potency even thought Ed Feser has explained the difference between active and passive potency in God).

            Thus God is His own reason thought he cannot coherently be his own cause.

            Every first year Thomist knows this but ignorant fanatics still confuse it with Descartes and Liebniz philosophy which we wholly reject.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "In other words only those things that have an explanation for their existence can be said to "exist"."

            No. Rather, all those things that exist must have an explanation for their existence. I do not like the word "explanation," because it sounds like something we can understand. There are many "reasons" for things that we cannot understand at all and never will. But they must still exist, with the ultimate reason for all creatures to be found in the Creator

          • Ok

    • … that a photon seems to be both a particle and a wave …

      Photons propagate as waves but interact as particles. Every equation I've encountered clearly distinguishes these two domains; there is no "maybe it's this equation but maybe it's a completely contradictory one" that I know of. Perhaps you can contradict this with solid science?

      • No, I could not even read the equations likely. I think I've heard people say these act sometimes like a particle sometimes a wave. I don't think it violates the principle o non con.

    • One need not accept that everything has a cause in order to perform reason and science. In fact, all logical systems are built upon unjustifiable axioms, and most people think science can't answer the fundamental questions, as they lie outside of its domain. Given that, it's absurd to say that science can't be done unless everything has a reason, when science itself operates outside of fundamental reasons.

  • "David Hume, the philosopher most famous for attacking the principle of causality..."

    I am not sure he did. I think what he did is rightly point out that there is not known justification for the principle of causality. I am thinking of the Problem of Induction here. The only reason to accept the principle is that there is no alternative. Now this can be called a reason to accept it, but I think this is a different kind of reason than the self-attesting reasons for accepting the logical absolutes.

    If you have a better reason for accepting induction I would like to hear it.

    "In a word, the principles of non-contradiction, sufficient reason, and
    causality are all presupposed by those atheists or agnostics attacking
    their application in the proofs for God’s existence."

    Well, the principle of non-contradiction is not presupposed, it is self-attesting. But it and the other two are accepted by theists and atheists alike, I believe for the same reasons. So I really do not understand the criticism here.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "If you have a better reason for accepting induction I would like to hear it."

      You are merely showing that you are confusing Hume's understanding with that of classical metaphysics. If he says there is no justification for the principle of causality, he is effectively attacking it. If you think my explanation above is based on induction, as is the case with Hume, you are not reading my OP carefully. Hume is talking about "necessary associations between mental impressions." If that was all there was, he would be right. But I am simply not talking about that at all. Reread the piece.

      Your last paragraph may not grasp my criticism of many atheists, but the important point is that you appear to accept the three principles I am defending. That is sufficient for me.

  • "More importantly, unless everything has a reason, we could
    never tell whether a thing has a reason or not–thereby effectively
    destroying the connection between thought and reality, since there would
    be no necessary reason why reality need correspond to thought"

    Maybe, but why can't it be that some things have a reason and some do not? For those things that we know the reason we can discuss it, other things we do not know the reason. I don't see how this destroys the connection between thought and reality of some of the things for which we are unaware of the reason just don't have one.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      We must not confuse the fact that all things must have a reason with the fact that for many things we cannot discern the immediate reason. The ultimate reason for all things is God. If not all things had a reason, we could never know which things have one and which do not -- making it effectively impossible to know whether anything has a reason. But the mind demands a reason for everything, while at the same time it could then be that nothing has a reason -- thereby utterly destroying the connection between thought and reality, as the OP says.

      • I'm not confusing that.

        "The ultimate reason for all things is God."

        I don't agree, you cannot just assert such a thing any more than i can assert "the ultimate reason for all things is nature".

        "If not all things had a reason, we could never know which things have
        one and which do not -- making it effectively impossible to know whether
        anything has a reason"

        Perhaps, or perhaps if not all things have a reason, we can know which do and which don't.

        "But the mind demands a reason for everything, while at the same time it
        could then be that nothing has a reason -- thereby utterly destroying
        the connection between thought and reality, as the OP says."

        I don't see why it cannot be the case that the mind demands a reason for everything but it will be disappointed because not in all cases is there such a reason. Why would this destroy the connection between mind and reality?

        I just do not see the problem, either everything has a reason, or some things have a reason, or nothing has a reason. I do not see how you have distinguished which is true. Moreover, on each one, we may or may not be able to confirm each one.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The whole point is that, if you do not know that your expectation of a reason has any correspondence to whether such a reason exists in reality, this completely divorces what is in the mind from what is in reality. Most psychiatrists use that as a definition of psychosis.

          • "The whole point is that, if you do not know that your expectation of a
            reason has any correspondence to whether such a reason exists in
            reality, this completely divorces what is in the mind from what is in
            reality"

            So you are saying if someone expects there to be a reason for the universe to exist, but is unaware if indeed there is any such reason actually exists and is prepared to accept that the existence of the universe may just be a brute fact, but then says, ok, I don't know, perhaps there is a reason, there is no logical contradiction in the universe being a brute fact, I will just not take a position on this question. Then this person says, do I have any basis to believe the universe exists, there is an external reality? And says, well if I act like it doesn't what will I do? I simply cannot, I have no alternative but to accept what I seem to sense is real is in fact real, are you saying this person is psychotic?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am saying that if we follow the logic of the OP that it entails that thought cannot be trusted to give any adequate account of reality, since there may be no reasons for anything -- despite the fact that the mind always searches for reasons. If that is true, then our minds cannot be trusted to reflect reality at all, in which case we cannot tell the difference between thought and reality, which really sounds like the clinical definition of psychosis.

  • "A being lacking sufficient reason has no explanation for existence
    either within or outside itself, which means nothing differentiates it
    from non-being"

    I don't see how this follows, for example, there is tree that I observe and it has no explanation for its existence. I differentiate it from non-being by observing it.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Saying a tree has no explanation for its existence does not make it lack one. You are simply trying to deny the PSR by declaration.

      Unless you are a follower of Bishop Berkeley, your looking at a tree does not make it exist. (Actually, it doesn't for Berkeley, ultimately, either, since it is God's knowing it that does.)

      You are equivocating on the use of the term, "differentiate." You appear to use it here to mean "being able to know a difference" from non-being. I mean whatever reality exists within or outside the being that makes it to be other than non-being.

      • I am not saying the tree has no explanation for its existence, but rather that if it lacked an reason, I could still know it exists by way of observing it. What is the problem with that?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The point is that it is not differentiated actively from non-being by your knowledge of it, but by either something in it or extrinsic to it.

          • The point is that it is not differentiated actively from non-being by your knowledge of it, but by either something in it or extrinsic to it.

            That assumes the truth of Aristotle's metaphysics. What am I doing wrong, epistemologically, if I disagree with Aristotle?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Epistemologically, you can differentiate it from non-being because you observe it. Correct. But ontologically, unless you are Berkeley, your knowing it does not offer a sufficient reason for its existing.

            I probably should add that knowing that something has a sufficient reason is no assurance that we can know what that sufficient reason may actually be. Those are two distinct issues.

          • But ontologically, unless you are Berkeley, your knowing it does not offer a sufficient reason for its existing.

            I am most certainly not Berkeley. But are you agreeing that if I know it exists, then it does exist? Do you accept justified true belief, or something like it, as the definition of knowledge?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am an epistemological realist, just like Aristotle, St. Thomas, and most human beings.

          • I am an epistemological realist, just like Aristotle, St. Thomas, and most human beings.

            It is not apparent to me how that answers my question, but I suspect it's intended to be a negative answer.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Truthfully, I think we need to be careful of definitions here. I am not sure enough as to what precisely you mean by "justified true belief" to answer the question at this point. My understanding of knowledge is a union of the knower and the thing known, which assuredly comes from a very different perspective. I don't want to say you are wrong. I am just not sure whether we are on the same page or can get on it.

          • Truthfully, I think we need to be careful of definitions here.

            Absolutely. There is (and always has been) way too much philosophy being done without proper attention to definitions.

            I am not sure enough as to what precisely you mean by "justified true belief" to answer the question at this point.

            So far as I’m aware, I mean the same thing being taught to philosophy undergraduates in most universities these days. And I think the so-called Gettier problems represent nothing more than a failure to properly clarify the meaning of justification, though I also concede that such a clarification is difficult to achieve.

            My understanding of knowledge is a union of the knower and the thing known, which assuredly comes from a very different perspective. I don't want to say you are wrong. I am just not sure whether we are on the same page or can get on it.

            I understand knowledge to be a state of mind. It has a certain necessary relationship to the thing known, but it is distinct from that relationship.

            So, we are not on the same page. But since we’re talking about a definition, I don’t think the issue is a matter of right or wrong. I get it that any self-respecting Aristotelian would dispute that, but it’s where I’m coming from: Definitions are not true or false, but only more or less useful for purposes of communication. If you and I use the same word while meaning different things by it, then we’re literally not talking about the same thing and so in that sense we’re not communicating at all.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are right. We do have an epistemological difference. But this OP is not about that topic.

          • Is the topic not about what we know and how we know it?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Not exactly. It is about whether every being respects the first principles.

          • You're not suggesting, are you, that the question of whether and how we know those first principles is irrelevant?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Of course not. I guess you want to expand the OP to include a debate between epistemological idealism and realism? Perhaps, you wish to return to the discussion of my previous OP on scientific materialism's idealistic implications? I would just refer you back to that piece on SN.

          • I guess you want to expand the OP to include a debate between epistemological idealism and realism?

            That depends. I don’t want to appear to be changing the subject, or going off on a lengthy tangent, or especially to be attacking a straw man. The proposition I mainly wish to defend, which I believe does directly address the OP, is that it is epistemologically reasonable to disagree with Aristotle’s metaphysics of causation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Perhaps, I could better grasp where you wish to go if you could explain this statement of yours a bit more:

            "I understand knowledge to be a state of mind. It has a certain necessary relationship to the thing known, but it is distinct from that relationship."

            I could be wrong, but that sounds like a form of epistemological idealism, a form of "correspondence theory," which I will concede is not the epistemological realism that Aristotle is using.

          • I could be wrong, but that sounds like a form of epistemological idealism, a form of "correspondence theory," which I will concede is not the epistemological realism that Aristotle is using.

            but that sounds like a form of epistemological idealism, a form of "correspondence theory," which I will concede is not the epistemological realism that Aristotle is using.

            Aristotle didn’t say much that I agree with, at least in his metaphysics.

            I believe that knowledge is a purely mental phenomenon: It cannot exist independently of the brain that produces it. It is what happens when the brain produces a true belief under conditions that make it also a warranted or justified belief. A false belief, regardless of justification, cannot constitute knowledge, and a true but unjustified belief does not constitute knowledge, either.

            I do accept the correspondence theory of truth, but not exactly as a definition. I regard truth as a primitive concept, which means it cannot be noncircularly defined. When we use the word, we have to just assume that we’re referring to the same thing, whatever it might be. The correspondence theory represents, in my judgment, a good illustration of what most people seem to be talking about when they talk about truth. I don’t see it as a kind of epistemology, because I don’t see epistemology as defining truth. It has to presuppose some notion of truth before it can even get started.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Frankly, I think this gets way off topic. But I am wondering how you can talk about a real brain if you don't start with some sort of realistic epistemology.

          • But I am wondering how you can talk about a real brain if you don't start with some sort of realistic epistemology.

            I do it by accepting the correspondence theory of truth and by denying the priority of metaphysics over epistemology.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I insist on the priority of metaphysics over epistemology, since metaphysical principles are necessary in order to determine the truth of any other science, including epistemology. I also reject the correspondence theory of truth in favor of epistemological realism based on the unity of the knower and the known.

            I do think that this gets us off the particular topic at hand, though.

          • I do think that this gets us off the particular topic at hand, though.

            I think it leaves our disagreement over the topic at hand irresolvable.

  • "We “see” clearly that absolute non-being provides no reason whatever for
    the coming-to-be of anything–and that is why it cannot come to be. Why
    do we see this so clearly? How can we be so sure?"

    I am not sure at all, it is simply intuitive and a conclusion induced from observations.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      You left out one line from my paragraph: "Its truth is immediately evident to every human intellect that is not playing games with words."

      • True, that line is left out. So you are saying I am playing games with words?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Not, perhaps, with words. But I if you are truly starting with absolutely nothing, I do not believe that even you think you honestly can get something out of it.

          • flan man

            I do, honestly. Or, to be more clear, I have no way of knowing. Unfortunately I can only know this world, with its limitations. I really can't honestly image pure NOTHING. I can say I can imagine nothing, but it's more of just a word. I can imagine darkness, the lack of something, a vacuum, but I REALLY don't know what Nothing is. I can't think of something that is nothing. I have no idea how anything would work outside the constraints of the universe, and I don't think you do, either. You simply take ideas of contingency and causality that work within the constraints of the universe and apply them outside the universe, or top of the universe, or however you want to phrase it. Any problems with God violating these conditions are explained away with words.

            But then I also can't imagine one being that's not actually a being but essentially being itself, but is also composed of three beings that aren't separate beings, and one of those beings became 100% man and 100% god and retained properties of both while remaining indivisible, and I honestly don't think you can, either. And That truth is immediately evident to every human intellect that is not playing games with words, as well.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You do not "imagine" nothingness. You understand the concept with your intellect.

          • flan man

            What a tiresome game of words. "Imagine" has nothing to do with understanding with intellect. They never cross over. The two are completely totally separate.

            I "imagine", you "understand with your intellect", Totally different.

            Let me guess, there are 3 different kinds of understanding. The first issues from God, and is obvious to all, the second, issues from the Will, and is composed of six parts....

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Try imagining a man.

            Now try imagining humanity.

            Try imagining a triangle.

            Now try imagining triangularity.

  • "Were it otherwise, all the logic in the world could never assure us of any knowledge of reality whatsoever"

    It can't.

    "Once the human intellect first encounters any being whatever, it forms a
    concept of being that endows it with immediate grasp of its universal
    application–an application possessed with absolute certitude."

    Does it? Not me, in fact this was the point of Descartes, we cannot have absolute certitude of the the being of anything other than our own minds.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      If what you say is true of Descartes, how did he use what he found within his mind so as to demonstrate the existence of a trancendental God?

      Do I really have to point out to you that your own last line is an absolute certitude about us not being able to know the being of anything other than our own minds, which is itself a statement about things outside our minds?

      • 'how did he use what he found within his mind so as to demonstrate the existence of a trancendental God?"

        He didn't.

        "Do I really have to point out to you that your own last line is an
        absolute certitude about us not being able to know the being of anything
        other than our own minds, which is itself a statement about things
        outside our minds?"

        No, I accept it is a statement that we cannot know anything about things outside our minds, including whether there is anything outside our own minds.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Have you read Descartes? He starts with the idea of God in his mind and argues that the only adequate cause of such an infinite concept is the true God.

          If you "cannot know anything about things outside our minds," why are you debating with me?

          • I have read Descartes, yes, I am aware of that dialogue, I can think of all kinds of adequate causes for such an idea.

            "If you "cannot know anything about things outside our minds," why are you debating with me?"

            I never said that, nor is it my position.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Most philosophers would agree that Descartes proof for God is invalid. But that was not the point. The point was that he uses reason to prove realities outside his mind.

          • Does he? How?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Let me spell it out. He uses reason to "attempt" to prove realities outside his mind. His alleged proof for God is one such use of his reason.

          • Okay, sure I can agree he attempted, did he succeed? If so what is the reasoning? You first said "he uses reason to prove realities outside his mind." Now you have said "He uses reason to "attempt" to prove realities outside his mind."

            Did he just attempt it, or did he succeed?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are quibbling. The point is that, while he begins by denying we can know things outside the mind, he finally concludes that one can do so by a process of reasoning.

            Again, this is really off topic. The topic is the validity of the first principles.

    • [OP]: Were it otherwise, all the logic in the world could never assure us of any knowledge of reality whatsoever

      BGA: It can't.

      Are you using logic to say "It can't."? From my vantage point, you seem to be engaged in self-contradiction by claiming this.

      • Yes I am using logic. I don't see a contradiction.

        With the caveat that I am talking about empirical facts about reality. Logic can tell us that there is a reality and some abstract truths, and I think therefore I
        am, but not things like where're there really is an apple on the table etc. so fair to ask clarification.

        • "Logic could never assure us of any knowledge of reality whatsoever." is a claim about reality.

          • Agreed.

          • [OP][A]: Were it otherwise, all the logic in the world could never assure us of any knowledge of reality whatsoever

            BGA[B]: It can't.

            LB[C]: Are you using logic to say "It can't."? From my vantage point, you seem to be engaged in self-contradiction by claiming this.

            BGA[D]: Yes I am using logic. I don't see a contradiction.

            LB[E]: "Logic could never assure us of any knowledge of reality whatsoever." is a claim about reality.

            BGA[F]: Agreed.

            Here's the contradiction:

                 (1) Logic cannot assure us of any knowledge of reality. [A][B]
                 (2) (1) is a claim about reality. [E][F]
                 (3) Complete confidence of (1) is refuted by (1).

            So all you can do is kinda-sorta believe (1). And yet that makes no sense, because it is in principle impossible to actually know (1). The closer you get to knowing it, the closer to a contradiction you are. Knowledge does not work like that.

          • Well, I qualified that statement, it wasn't meant to be as exhaustive as you interpreted it.

            "with the caveat that I am talking about empirical facts about reality. Logic
            can tell us that there is a reality and some abstract truths, and I
            think therefore I am, but not things like where're there really is an apple on the table etc."

            So 1 is withdrawn. Better phrased as:

            [1] Logic can assist in knowing very little about reality

          • Your caveat is still self-defeating. Your modified version would appear to allow stuff like @drdennisbonnette:disqus's metaphysical first principles in the door. If not, exactly why not? What is the dividing line between what logic can tell us about reality and what it cannot, and how can logic establish that dividing line, without transgressing it?

          • Ok,

            I don't really dispute these principles. Maybe PSR, I haven't thought too much about it, and when I do I don't see why some things can have a reason and others exist for no reason.

            I think in apologetics, PSR is one that if necessary for the argument needs to be justified. But I would generally grant it for the sake of argument.

            The dividing line is empiricism. Logic and the fact of experience gets one to certainty of one's own existence. If you call the truth of the logical absolutes "something about reality" we can get there in the abstract, but I think this is really not logic showing us anything about reality, these are logic itself in a way. We can take abstractions like mathematics and identify truths.

            But logic can work all day and not tell me if that apple is "really" there and so on. But we have been down this road a few times before, if we are going again, perhaps we could state the claim we are discussing from the outset?

          • I don't really dispute these principles.

            Then I don't understand your root comment. You seemed to be precisely disputing those principles. The OP does not speak of apples.

          • Well I'm not.

  • "That is because they [the logical absolutes] are based on the intellect’s grasp of the universal nature of being or existence itself–"

    No, it is because their denial requires their truth.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Do I notice you applying the principle of non-contradiction here?

      • Of course! That is my point! Who do you think is denying them? Certainly no atheist I have ever encountered!

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Okay. I don't know what atheists you may know, since they appear to be quite different from the ones I have encountered. But let us say you are quite right and all atheists accept fully the transcendental truth of the metaphysical first principles of being. That is precisely what my OP was defending as well.

          • Please name one atheist who denies the principle of non-contradiction.

            Here is one defending it.

            https://youtu.be/cuRCF7h7FzE?t=1m55s

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Anyone in his right mind should defend it. Still, I give you in a post below two examples of people who deny it, both of whom, by the way, I strongly suspect are atheists.

          • So the atheists you are challenging are people you've encountered in com boxes on the internet? And at that based on your memory? Do you even know that this physicist was actually a physicist?

            If that is your interest I highly suggest you call Mr Dillahunty's show. It is on every Sunday. It is called the Atheist Experience, Matt does not have any formal scientific or philosophical training, so it should be pretty easy for you to advance a convincing argument for the existence of God.

            http://www.atheist-experience.com/faq/

            If you are interested in a more sophisticated debate, for your next piece might I suggest you aim a little higher? Perhaps deal with the positive atheist arguments of Justin Scheiber, for example, or Schellenberg.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Now you are really missing the point of my article.

            I am not trying to prove the existence of God in this piece. I am simply pointing out that many atheists attack the metaphysical first principles, in particular causality and sufficient reason, in the process of denying that God's existence can be proven. In fact, I cite atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen to this effect in the OP itself, with proper endnote reference.

            The main point of the article is that the metaphysical first principles are universally true. Period.

  • If one has to attack the elementary principles of logic to defend one's position, that is a sure sign that one's position is unsound.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I have been struggling to articulate exactly what I object to in claims of metaphysical "certainty". I think I am starting to put my finger on it.

    I do not disagree with anything in Dr. Bonnette's post; from what I can tell, it is entirely correct. I think my objection has to do entirely with connotations.

    Notwithstanding whatever technical meaning the word "certainty" has in the philosophy literature, it connotes -- to me, at least -- confidence and, moreover, self-confidence(*). By contrast, what I experience in evaluating these "metaphysical first principles" is the very opposite of self-confidence. Maybe these principles are incorrect, but I am powerless to refute them; I am helpless without them. I stand in existential poverty in relation to them. Powerlessness, helplessness, poverty: these are not things that I easily associate with "confidence".

    (*) But of course, perhaps this is my fault for falsely equating con-fides with self-confidence. This may be the root of my problem (which I suspect is also the problem of some others).

    From this perspective, I wonder if all proofs of God that rest on these metaphysical principles are in some sense superfluous. To accept these principles is already to throw oneself at the mercy of Reason, to admit that one is powerless and utterly in poverty without Reason. At that point, the rest seems like footnotes.

    This also resolves -- to my satisfaction, at least -- the tension between a Christian anthropology in which we are all fallible and sinful, yet simultaneously capable of holding dogmatic certainties. I now resolve this in my mind in the following way: It is not that we have con-fides in our ability to know these certainties, it is rather that we have con-fides in Reason itself, from which these certainties issue.

    • Rob Abney

      It seems like you are trying to resist the popular philosophy of postmodernism. "Postmodernism is difficult to define, because to define it would violate the postmodernist's premise that no definite terms, boundaries, or absolute truths exist."

      It is not that we have con-fides in our ability to know these certainties, it is rather that we have con-fides in Reason itself, from which these certainties issue.

      But I believe the OP argues that we do "know" first then use reason, so our confidence is in the fact that we "know" and that we are able to reflect upon ourselves "knowing that we know" and that is the basis for reasoning.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        Maybe ... in any case, to the extent that the OP is arguing that we can know prior to throwing ourselves at the mercy of Reason, prior to having faith in Reason, I disagree with the OP.

        • Rob Abney

          If you don't mind discussing more...
          How can you have faith in reason prior to having experience of using reason?

          Here's how I understand our ability to "know",

          In order to reason, one must be able to make judgments, for example: "Some things are not men", or "All men are animals".
          The ability to make universal statements (all men are animals), however, presupposes the ability to apprehend universal concepts, such as "man", "animal", "thing", "living", "health", "equality", "universality", "cause", "science", "essential", "necessity", "contingency", etc.
          Universal concepts, however, are not sensible; particulars are sensible. One cannot, for example, draw a picture of the concept "animal". The idea of animal is neither a horse, a dog, a cow, nor a bird. It covers all of them. "Animal" is not necessarily four legged, or two legged, or winged or not winged. It has no corresponding image. It is an idea, that is, something intelligible, not sensible. Douglas Mcmanaman

          We must know or grasp an essence prior to making reasonable judgments.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But faith -- at least, the type of faith in reason that I am talking about -- is waaay upstream of making any conscious judgement. I had faith that my mother's milk would show up long before I could have articulated that faith, back when I had only the most inchoate sense of what parenthood and food was. Similarly, I had faith in reason looong before I made any conscious judgement about my ability to reason. Every act of knowing seems to be build on this deep trust that we all -- unavoidably, I think -- have, in the reality in which we are embedded.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I've just been reading a bit about what Heidegger meant when he called our age, "The Age of the World-Picture", and I think this puts what I am trying to say into further perspective.

      If one conceives of one's mind as in some sense capable of looking down at reality from a sort of bird's eye view, as we who live in the "Age of the World-Picture" seem inclined to do, then "certainty" naturally involves a sort of self-confidence: we are certain that our worldview is correct. By contrast, it seems that those who lived before the "Age of the World-Picture", must have conceived of "certainty" differently: they seem to have accepted that they were at some intermediate level in the great chain of being, able to "look down" on reality from a certain height, but unable to look down on it from certain higher (divine) viewpoints. In that context, an expression of "certainty" in a metaphysical principle must have meant something more like, "finding the metaphysical principle to be inescapable". It must have been more of a "certainty of poverty", rather than a "certainty of omniscience".

      I think?

  • The metaphysical first principle of the principle of sufficient reason is provably false. The reason why is because Brute Facts Are Unavoidable even if god exists. We can argue more formally:

    (1) The traditional notion of god in classical theism is that of a timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, who also must be infinitely good, infinitely wise, and can do anything logically possible.
    (2) All of god's will and desires must exist timelessly and eternally in an unchanging, frozen state.
    (3) That would mean that god timelessly and eternally had the desire to create our particular universe, and not some other universe, or no universe.
    (4) Our universe is not logically necessary; it didn't have to exist, and god didn't have to create it.
    (5) The theist would have to show that it was logically necessary for god to create our particular universe in order to avoid eventually coming to a brute fact.
    (6) There is no way to answer this question, even in principle, with something logically necessary.
    (C) Thus at least one brute fact must exist even if god exists.

    Basically the existence of any contingent fact necessitates that brute facts exist, regardless of whether you posit a god or not. Given this the principle of sufficient reason is false. And with that all of Aquinas's arguments fall.

    • Rob Abney

      A being lacking sufficient reason has no explanation for existence either within or outside itself, which means nothing differentiates it from non-being. Yet, the actual act of existence of every being does differentiate it from non-being. Since such self-contradiction is impossible, every being must have a reason for being.

      Do you agree with this statement from the OP or not?

      • No of course not. It assumes the PSR which I've just shown is false. If you disagree with my argument, please show me where it goes wrong.

        • Rob Abney

          The highlighted statement doesn't assume the PSR it reasons for it, in a manner that seems valid to me. I thought you might be able to discuss how it is invalid.

          It seems to me that you are arguing that all of God's actions are necessary acts but the universe is contingent so that invalidates the need for a reason. Is that an accurate account?

          If your argument could be shown to be invalid by showing that the way you describe God is inaccurate then the PSR would not be affected.

          So, can you show that that highlighted statement is invalid by just referring to it?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am reposting the following argument from deeper in the thread because it fits here and supports your point:

            A being without any reason for being just happens to exist. It is called a contingent being. A man, a horse, a star, the whole cosmos, just happens to be. Nothing in its nature makes it exist. But if we can use the self-evident principle that ex nihilo nihil fit (from nothing nothing comes to be), a nature lacking existence cannot give existence to itself. That is, of itself neither is there any reason for its being nor, in fact, does it exist, since its nature lacks existence.

            And if, in addition, there is nothing outside of it that makes
            it exist, then it is properly called, uncaused. That is, it neither has existence from outside itself.

            But that which has existence neither from itself nor from
            outside itself, simply lacks all existence: it does not exist. And yet, every being does exist. Thus, an uncaused contingent being is a contradiction in terms. It both exists and yet it cannot exist. Such beings are impossible and absurd.

            But an “uncaused contingent being” is just another way of
            saying “a being without a sufficient reason.” Therefore, beings without sufficient reasons cannot exist. The contrary corollary to this is that every being must have a sufficient reason, or, more fully, every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be either within itself or from some extrinsic reason (a cause). The principle of sufficient reason is true.

          • James Chilton

            ".....every being must have a sufficient reason for its being or coming-to-be either within itself or from some extrinsic reason (a cause). "

            Isn't a being that can have a sufficient reason for its existence within itself, impossible in principle?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Try "God."

          • James Chilton

            God "caused" himself?

          • Dennis would say that nothing caused god because god is a necessarily existing being. I'd say that granting that is problematic, because then since god is eternal and timeless, all of god's desires and will are likewise eternal and timeless. In this case, why does god eternally exist with desire A rather than desire B? If desires A and B are neither logically impossible, nor logically necessary, then the existence of a god with any eternal desire would have to be contingent - according to the theist's own logic, since god is identical to his will.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            God does not cause himself, because a "cause" is an extrinsic sufficient reason for an effect. Since God is his own sufficient reason, he does not cause himself. He is the Necessary Being because in him alone essence and existence are identical, meaning that he cannot not exist -- given, of course, that we are not talking about a merely hypothetical being, but one actually existing.

            There is nothing actually contingent about God, since he is not logically bound by any particular free choice, but ontologically has exercised his free choice from and in all eternity -- thereby making that choice identical with his very being. See my post above answering this same claim you make.

            A thing may be logically possible, but not ontologically possible, because actual conditions of existence may exclude it.

          • James Chilton

            When you say that God is the Necessary Being who cannot not exist, you seem to speak with the assurance that you're stating an incontestable truth.

            Given your authority on philosophical questions, I figure there must be something the matter with me because I can't just grasp this truth and have done with it. On the contrary, I wonder whether what you're claiming is a foundational belief that is impervious to attack because it requires no justification. (No doubt many a subtle qualification of your position has gone over my head.)

            I must confess to not having studied philosophy at university. My degree stuffed my head with useless knowledge and encouraged me to dabble in many things and to master nothing.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is not a claim of demonstrated truth for purposes of this thread. It is merely an explanation of how God could be his own sufficient reason, given the understanding of his nature that the science of metaphysics concludes to.

            In order to make it a demonstrated truth, of course, one would have to go through a rigorous demonstration of God's existence, and then, do the natural theology required to establish his nature as a necessary being and what that entails.

            There is a difference between explaining what a concept would entail and proving that a reality corresponding to that concept exists. In God alone would a being exist in which its very nature is identical to its act of existence. Such a being would exist by nature, and hence, could not not exist -- assuming that such a being exists in the first place. That latter point must be philosophically demonstrated, which is not the subject of this thread. The metaphysical first principles are merely intellectual tools that are presupposed in any such proof.

          • God does not cause himself, because a "cause" is an extrinsic sufficient reason for an effect.

            Which is why the claim that we wouldn't have moral worth unless there exists a god shows that moral value and worth on theism is not intrinsic, but extrinsic.

            He is the Necessary Being because in him alone essence and existence are identical, meaning that he cannot not exist -- given, of course, that we are not talking about a merely hypothetical being, but one actually existing.

            I know what you're saying but none of those claims describe anything in reality. You can't define a being into existence.

            There is nothing actually contingent about God, since he is not logically bound by any particular free choice, but ontologically has exercised his free choice from and in all eternity -- thereby making that choice identical with his very being.

            Is it logically possible god could have eternally existed with different desires?

            A thing may be logically possible, but not ontologically possible, because actual conditions of existence may exclude it.

            If it doesn't exist, it doesn't exist, even if it's logically possible for it to exist. I however do not think it's logically possible for god to exist.

          • James Chilton

            This is an ingenious argument. I'm swayed by sophisticated arguments from both theists and atheists. For the time being, on the God hypothesis, I take refuge in agnosticism - or at least the affectation of it - by saying I don't know but I'm interested in finding out.

          • Agnosticism is fine if you're still searching. I've searched, and have learned enough such that atheism is perfectly justifiable. In fact, I can't even see how theism gets off the ground,.

          • James Chilton

            It occurs to me that if Professor Bonnette's reasoning is absolutely sound and unassailable, then it would be irrational not to believe in God.

            My skepticism is probably naive - but I guess it might be incorrigible.

          • His reasoning is flawed, based on incorrect first principles that uses outdated and provably false metaphysics.

          • The problem is that this logic is false.

            Nothing in its nature makes it exist.

            Nothing in god's nature makes "god with eternal desire A" exist rather than "god with eternal desire B" exist. None are logically necessary, yet both are logically possible (assuming god is even coherent). It just so happens that we have "god with eternal desire A" exist rather than "god with eternal desire B, C, D, E, F...." exist.

            But if we can use the self-evident principle that ex nihilo nihil fit (from nothing nothing comes to be), a nature lacking existence cannot give existence to itself. That is, of itself neither is there any reason for its being nor, in fact, does it exist, since its nature lacks existence.

            Regarding the universe (by which we mean the totality of space and time), it always had existence, since at no time did it not exist. There never was "nothing" from which anything came. There was always something.

            But that which has existence neither from itself nor from
            outside itself, simply lacks all existence: it does not exist.

            That's only if one accepts your metaphysical first principles like the PSR. Hence you're assuming what must only be true under the PSR to deduce the PSR. Something could exist as a brute fact and that would neither require necessary existence in itself, nor from something outside of it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just affirming that something is a “brute fact” is not a magical card to solve all problems of existence. Your logical points remind me why logic alone is not the science of metaphysics.

            One cannot construct beings like the pieces of an erector set.

            The ideal of logic entails using univocal terms, whereas being is analogous and needs proper metaphysical analysis. You properly force me to go deeper into the metaphysics
            of being. This is part of why Lagrange took eleven pages to address the principle of sufficient reason.

            If a thing’s nature does not include existence, then its nature is as nothing in reference to the act of existence that it has. You are saying that the existence was always there and therefore needs no reason for being. In that case, the being is no “thing,” since its nature has nothing to do with its existence. A real thing is an existing nature, with the nature
            determining what kind of thing it is – with certain existential perfections and lacking others. If it is pure existence with no nature actually determining or limiting its expression, what you have then is infinite being, or, what we call “God.”

            The reason that absolute non-being cannot beget being is because there is absolutely no “thing” from which to get it. What you describe as an act of existence that does not belong to the nature of the thing in question is an act that is a thing in itself, irrelevant of the being in question. But this “existence” manifests only certain properties of existence and not others. That is the proper role of nature, since being a certain kind of thing means the nature of the thing determines the aspects of existence the “thing” manifests. An act of existence totally divorced from the nature to which it gives existence is a non-entity in itself. This is simply not the role played by “existence.”

            In other words, you can plug in the word, “existence,” here and say it has always been there and thus does not need
            any explanation. But the moment you say that the nature is just “hanging there” in virtue of an act of existence that is totally divorced from the nature’s role in limiting and determining that act of existence's presence, the roles of nature and existence become unreal.

            Nature or essence’s function is to determine, that is, account for and limit the expression of existence that is present in the being. So if the nature does not have any relation to the “brute fact” of existence, you have an impossible sort of being, that is, you have a being that is not a genuine being.

            You have a contradiction in terms – as I said above.

          • One cannot construct beings like the pieces of an erector set.

            Agreed, but my logic for brute facts is not that. It shows that there is a contingent nature of god that must entail a brute fact. Also one cannot define a being into existence.

            The ideal of logic entails using univocal terms, whereas being is analogous and needs proper metaphysical analysis.

            The analogous card is used to make arguments with examples that have contradictions that you can try to weasel out of by claiming they're just analogous.

            You properly force me to go deeper into the metaphysics of being. This is part of why Lagrange took eleven pages to address the principle of sufficient reason.

            If a thing’s nature does not include existence, then its nature is as nothing in reference to the act of existence that it has. You are saying that the existence was always there and therefore needs no reason for being. In that case, the being is no “thing,” since its nature has nothing to do with its existence.

            I'm saying your entire logic here is wrong, because for one thing it is made assuming the PSR and all of your other first principles. Nothing's nature is existence. A thing either has the property of existence if it exists, or it doesn't if it doesn't exist. God certainly doesn't have the property of existing with certain desire A, and not certain desire B. And if god eternally exists with certain desire A, that either has an explanation or it doesn't. If it is neither logically necessary nor logically impossible that both desires exist, asking a series of "why?" questions will ultimately have to terminate in a brute fact.

            The reason that absolute non-being cannot beget being is because there is absolutely no “thing” from which to get it. What you describe as an act of existence that does not belong to the nature of the thing in question is an act that is a thing in itself, irrelevant of the being in question. But this “existence” manifests only certain properties of existence and not others. That is the proper role of nature, since being a certain kind of thing means the nature of the thing determines the aspects of existence the “thing” manifests. An act of existence totally divorced from the nature to which it gives existence is a non-entity in itself. This is simply not the role played by “existence.”

            The entire logic here is fundamentally wrong. There was no absolute non being, there was only, and always, being. Eternalism throws a monkey wrench into Aristotelian logic, since Aristotle rejected Parmenides, and Feser does in the beginning of his book The Last Superstition, but Parmenides was right. The universe has always existed, past, present and future; it never came into existence in the ontological sense, and given this, no god could create it even in principle. Your metaphysics is simply out of line with what modern physics shows to be true. It assumes an incorrect way the universe works.

            In other words, you can plug in the word, “existence,” here and say it has always been there and thus does not need
            any explanation.

            No, I'm saying certain facts will necessarily not have an explanation, they cannot. Brute facts are unavoidable.

            But the moment you say that the nature is just “hanging there” in virtue of an act of existence that is totally divorced from the nature’s role in limiting and determining that act of existence's presence, the roles of nature and existence become unreal.

            Existence comes first, nature second. You've got it backwards. A thing's nature cannot ever give it existence. It either exists or it doesn't.

            Nature or essence’s function is to determine, that is, account for and limit the expression of existence that is present in the being. So if the nature does not have any relation to the “brute fact” of existence, you have an impossible sort of being, that is, you have a being that is not a genuine being.

            Again, your logic is completely flawed here and assumes your first principles as true. It for one thing assumes essentialism, which I have no reason to accept.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I posted to Robert Morley above, your claim about God’s free creation of the world necessarily entailing a brute fact is false. The mere assertion of the existence of brute facts does not make them so. Nor am I merely assuming the PSR in my posts. Your own statement in a post proximately above this one implicitly affirms both non-contradiction and the PSR.

            Let me cite you again: “Every system makes assertions and must justify those assertions.”

            You may not be comfortable with the implications of your own statement here, but what it does is to affirm not only “assertions,” which I presume you do not wish to contradict themselves, but also the need to “justify” them. As my piece clearly argues, this implies that reasons must be given for the assertions. If “justify” does not mean “to give reasons,” what does it mean? The OP points out that if rational justification does not correspond to reality, the mind becomes
            useless. Indeed, unless absolutely everything has an adequate reason, rational justification would never inherently need to correspond to any particular reality. Even if it did in some instances, we would never know which times it did and which times it did not. This would make ordinary experience and even natural science to be utterly irrational.

            I can understand your desire to replace classical metaphysics with modern physics, and even to propose the scientifically unproven, empirically unverifiable, metaphysical
            assumption that the world has always existed. But to say that Aristotle missed this point is absurd, since he believed in an eternal world. You constantly assert that there are certain brute facts, but I have yet to see one that you can demonstrate to be true. As for the “brute fact” of an eternal world, what you offer is not a brute fact, but merely at best a brute hypothesis, masquerading as a fact.

            When I said, “The reason that absolute non-being cannot beget being is because there is absolutely no “thing” from which to get it.,” I did not presume either the PSR or that the world had a beginning in time. I was merely trying to get the
            reader to realize that the only alternative to total non-being is real “things,” and from that, what exactly is the true relationship between nature and the act of existence in real beings – that the sort of “beings” you envisage with “nature” having no real relation to “existence” are not a genuine
            beings at all. My post needs to be read in that light, not with the skewing you gave it.

            As to the accurate depiction of what constitutes a being, of the relationship of nature or essence to existence, these are properly metaphysical questions – a science you do not think even exists. You simply cannot apply the methods of natural
            science to an entirely different order of knowing. I stand by my analysis of being in this post, but cannot make you understand it if you view reality solely in terms of empirical verification. I have shown the inherent problems of scientific materialism in an earlier OP.

            https://strangenotions.com/naturalisms-epistemological-nightmare/

            If science is to have any rational meaning it must be that it gives some sort of reasons for its assertions about the world. It appears to me that you want to claim that science offers explanations for all things, except why the world itself exists. But this is an inconsistent application of the quest for reasons. If you allow a single instance in which reasons might not exist, then you have no way of knowing whether or not they ever exist – and the rationality of natural science itself lies in ruins. As the OP demonstrates, unless you are prepared to say that the human mind is utterly untrustworthy in telling us about the real world, the PSR must be accepted as true.

          • No one is merely asserting that brute facts exist. I'm logically demonstrating it. I don't anywhere affirm the PSR. If you think I do, show where.

            As my piece clearly argues, this implies that reasons must be given for the assertions. If “justify” does not mean “to give reasons,” what does it mean? The OP points out that if rational justification does not correspond to reality, the mind becomes
            useless. Indeed, unless absolutely everything has an adequate reason, rational justification would never inherently need to correspond to any particular reality.

            I gave reasons for all my assertions. Nothing I said was just a mere assertion. Again, if you think I made an assertion that I didn't justify, quote it. The last part you write is simply false. If there was just 1 brute fact in the entire universe, it would do nothing to undermine rationality. You've been false asserting this since the very beginning.

            Even if it did in some instances, we would never know which times it did and which times it did not. This would make ordinary experience and even natural science to be utterly irrational.

            No it wouldn't. It would still be the case that almost everything has an explanation, and rationality and science would be used to discover that.

            I can understand your desire to replace classical metaphysics with modern physics, and even to propose the scientifically unproven, empirically unverifiable, metaphysical
            assumption that the world has always existed.

            Well we know that classical Aristotelian metaphysics is wrong. That is uncontroversial. There is no assumption that the world has always existed. It is derived from both special and general relativity, none of which are on shaky ground. So in a sense, yes, we can prove this.

            But to say that Aristotle missed this point is absurd, since he believed in an eternal world. You constantly assert that there are certain brute facts, but I have yet to see one that you can demonstrate to be true. As for the “brute fact” of an eternal world, what you offer is not a brute fact, but merely at best a brute hypothesis, masquerading as a fact.

            I gave you an argument that showed brute facts are unavoidable, on theism or atheism, and you have yet to refute it. The best you've done so far is to assume your first principles, then make an argument based on them to show how there can be no brute facts. That's not an argument. And Aristotle's eternal world is different from mine. I'm talking about eternalism, he's talking about having an infinite number of moments before the present. I offer no brute hypothesis. I show, logically, that the existence of any contingent fact will necessarily lead you to a brute fact.

            My post needs to be read in that light, not with the skewing you gave it.

            How could god freely will a world that is different from ours if our world is eternal, especially since our world is not necessary?

            As to the accurate depiction of what constitutes a being, of the relationship of nature or essence to existence, these are properly metaphysical questions – a science you do not think even exists.

            And here is your problem. I do not deny metaphysics at all. I deny your metaphysics because we know from modern science that they are false. And one thing you need to learn is that metaphysical views have physical implications. I've already mentioned this. If you are a cartesian dualist, that has physical implications - and ones we know are false. Metaphysics and physics are not exclusive. Metaphysics is also not really science, it is philosophy.

            You simply cannot apply the methods of natural
            science to an entirely different order of knowing. I stand by my analysis of being in this post, but cannot make you understand it if you view reality solely in terms of empirical verification. I have shown the inherent problems of scientific materialism in an earlier OP.

            In some cases you can. What science shows us is that causality as we normally understand does not exist. And this means that any metaphysical view which posits a view of causality that is in disagreement with what science shows on the subject is false. Physics has metaphysical implications, and metaphysics have physical implications. Again, they are not exclusive. And I've never said only things that are empirically verifiable are true. You keep assuming this.

            If science is to have any rational meaning it must be that it gives some sort of reasons for its assertions about the world. It appears to me that you want to claim that science offers explanations for all things, except why the world itself exists.

            Science doesn't assert anything. Science is a series of methods for finding out truth about the world, and it's the most reliable one. And what it finds to be true are facts, not assertions. I never said science explains all things. Stop assuming I adhere to scientism. This is a consistent mistake you've been making.

            If you allow a single instance in which reasons might not exist, then you have no way of knowing whether or not they ever exist – and the rationality of natural science itself lies in ruins. As the OP demonstrates, unless you are prepared to say that the human mind is utterly untrustworthy in telling us about the real world, the PSR must be accepted as true.

            Again, this is completely and utterly untrue. The existence of a single brute fact would do nothing to undermine science or reason. This would only be so if everything was a brute fact, and clearly that is not the case. Your OP demonstrations no such thing.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Early on in the comments, you made this statement: “Every system makes assertions and must justify those assertions.”

            I never said that you did not try to justify your assertions. What I did say was that your admitting the need to justify assertions implicitly affirms the need for reasons. I know you have not asserted that science can give explanations for everything, which would be a practical impossibility anyway.

            Still, I always find it peculiar that those who think natural science has an exclusive prerogative for offering rational explanations of the whole world are the quickest to stop short of embracing a rational account when it comes to asking the question that even Stephen Hawking has raised, “Why does anything exist at all?” Can it be that they suspect that an unbridled quest for reasons inevitably leads to a First Cause Uncaused?

            You claim that “If there was just 1 brute fact in the entire universe, it would do nothing to undermine rationality.” The problem is that if one thing could have no reason, we have no way of being sure that more things are not also lacking
            reasons, or that any given thing must have a reason. The inductive fact that many reasons for things appear to have been discovered is no assurance even that most everything has a reason – discoverable or not.

            Denial of the PSR would say that not every being has a sufficient reason. This would mean that while we may give rational reasons why statements are justified, we could
            never be certain that the reasons given reflect a real world foundation for their claimed truth, since it might be that the structure of thought itself has no reason to correlate to the real world. The implications of this both for philosophy and science should be evident.

            You have no foundation for your claim that “It would still be the case that almost everything has an explanation, and rationality and science would be used to discover that.” Either all things have reasons, or not all things have reasons.
            Once you concede the latter, the universal rule is broken and irrational lack of reasons can appear without reason at any inconvenient moment.

            I have tried to explain repeatedly how you have yet to demonstrate a single brute fact, and I am as unimpressed with your proof that one must exist as you appear to be of
            my explanation as to how God can exist and freely create the world. Clearly, your view of the relative value of A-T metaphysics to natural science is inverse to mine. I would point out thought that natural science could never prove that
            the world is eternal without making the philosophical assumption that there is no God to have given it a beginning.

          • Early on in the comments, you made this statement: “Every system makes assertions and must justify those assertions.”

            I did not make that statement. Doug Shaver did. So looks like a case of mistaken identity.

            What I did say was that your admitting the need to justify assertions implicitly affirms the need for reasons.

            And that is completely compatible with denying the PSR because denying the PSR doesn't entail that nothing has a reason, it entails that not everything does.

            Still, I always find it peculiar that those who think natural science has an exclusive prerogative for offering rational explanations of the whole world are the quickest to stop short of embracing a rational account when it comes to asking the question that even Stephen Hawking has raised, “Why does anything exist at all?” Can it be that they suspect that an unbridled quest for reasons inevitably leads to a First Cause Uncaused?

            Nope. They do not lead to a first cause, and that's because all the first cause arguments make the fundamental mistake of deriving metaphysics from a false understanding of how the universe works. All I'm saying (via logical demonstration) is that brute facts are logically unavoidable even if god exists. So the PSR is necessarily false.

            Denial of the PSR would say that not every being has a sufficient reason.

            That's false. Denial of the PSR would say that not every thing has a sufficient reason. It doesn't have to apply to beings.

            This would mean that while we may give rational reasons why statements are justified, we could never be certain that the reasons given reflect a real world foundation for their claimed truth, since it might be that the structure of thought itself has no reason to correlate to the real world. The implications of this both for philosophy and science should be evident.

            Of course not. No metaphysic can do that. It is always possible we're living in a matrix. All logical systems have to start with an axiom that cannot be further justified. You're asking for a standard that even you can't meet.

            Either all things have reasons, or not all things have reasons.

            Completely false dichotomy. Some things can have reasons, and somethings necessarily will not.

            Once you concede the latter, the universal rule is broken and irrational lack of reasons can appear without reason at any inconvenient moment.

            This is no universal rule. This is your false unjustified claim.

            I have tried to explain repeatedly how you have yet to demonstrate a single brute fact, and I am as unimpressed with your proof that one must exist as you appear to be of my explanation as to how God can exist and freely create the world. Clearly, your view of the relative value of A-T metaphysics to natural science is inverse to mine.

            Your subjective feeling of being unimpressed means nothing. I'm unimpressed by your metaphysics and arguments for god. All that matters is your arguments. My job is not to demonstrate a particular fact is a brute fact, but that eventually brute facts are unavoidable. So you're mistaken on what I'm trying to argue for.

            I would point out thought that natural science could never prove that the world is eternal without making the philosophical assumption that there is no God to have given it a beginning.

            Point out? You made an assertion. You didn't point out anything. Seriously Dennis, I'm disappointed in your intellectual standards. Nothing about deriving the truth of eternalism at all requires any acknowledgement on a position on god's existence. You've got it backwards. Eternalism entails (concludes) that no god could have given it a beginning. That is, eternalism and theism via creation ex nihilo are incompatible. If you disagree, back up your assertion with an argument.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, I apologize for confusing you with Doug Shaver. Following these threads can be very confusing at times. But that is no excuse.

            Cutting through all the distinctions that you attempt to make here, the bottom line is that you intend to deny the PSR. You quote me correctly above as saying that “Denial of the PSR would say that not every being has a sufficient reason.” For some reason, you say that applies to things, but not to beings. Fact is that the classical formulation of the PSR is that “Every being has a sufficient reason.” Hence, its denial would say “Not every being has a sufficient reason.” "Beings" is correct.

            The important point is that once you deny the universal, you lose all assurance that beings have reasons. I just posted a response to Brian Green Adams near the top of in this thread, showing the consequences of that inference for natural science, which I won’t repeat here. But loss of assurance that things or beings have reasons makes natural science impossible, since you never know
            whether there is any given reason for any given phenomena. See my post above.

            As for any transcendent claims made on behalf of any given physical science, one should realize that such claims are by their nature metaphysical in nature – not natural science. Besides, in classical metaphysics, even if you assume the eternity of the world, the existence of God can be demonstrated – using, ofcourse, some of those metaphysical first principles that you deny.

          • Apology accepted. Regarding the PSR, I said it applies to things and not necessarily beings, and by beings I mean living things and not objects. I'm not saying it wouldn't apply to beings, I'm saying it doesn't only apply to beings (using my definition above). If by being you simply mean a thing, then sure.

            The important point is that once you deny the universal, you lose all assurance that beings have reasons.

            Which is precisely wrong. Denying that everything has a reason doesn't at all entail that nothing has a reason. You've not been able to get this and continually assert that it does.

            But loss of assurance that things or beings have reasons makes natural science impossible, since you never know
            whether there is any given reason for any given phenomena. See my post above.

            No it doesn't at all because science doesn't require that all things have reasons, and certainly not scientific reasons, because science doesn't require that all things have scientific explanations. So once again you are mistakenly believing that "not everything has a reason" entails "nothing has a reason." I don't know how many times I have to tell you this before you get it. So built right into science is the acknowledgement that science will not necessarily be able to explain everything. Science looks for reasons, and it either finds them or doesn't, within a certain amount of time. We have the right to ask for reasons because most things do, in fact I think it's likely that everything in the universe does. And not looking for reasons is intellectually lazy. But logic tells us that it will necessarily be the case that at least one thing will not have a reason. That doesn't mean giving up on looking for reasons at all. It just means you cannot demand that everything has a reason.

            As for any transcendent claims made on behalf of any given physical science, one should realize that such claims are by their nature metaphysical in nature – not natural science. Besides, in classical metaphysics, even if you assume the eternity of the world, the existence of God can be demonstrated – using, ofcourse, some of those metaphysical first principles that you deny.

            It can't actually demonstrate god, even though it tries. Those first principles can easily be shown false using not only modern scientific findings, but also a priori logic. At this point you're just ignoring most of my points and reasserting your views.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I did say that denial of the PSR means that “not everything has a reason.”

            I never inferred from that that “nothing has a reason.”

            You correctly cited me above saying, “The important point is
            that once you deny the universal, you lose all assurance that beings have reasons.”

            It is the loss of assurance that is fatal to science, not the loss of some reasons.

            As you put it yourself, “It just means you cannot demand that everything has a reason.”

            If you do not KNOW that phenomena have reasons, then you cannot draw any necessary inferences from them. Hence follows the
            points made in a reply to someone else:

            “If facts and beings need no sufficient reason, then the following become real physical possibilities: (1) something begins to be from absolutely nothing, (2) something ceases to be at any time for no reason at all, (3) properties of things can appear and disappear for no reason at all, (4) something performs operations, while having no particular nature related to them and no special conditions to elicit them.”

            Please notice that is does not say “if beings HAVE no sufficient reason.” It says “if they NEED no sufficient reason.” There is a world of difference. If they need no sufficient reasons, then you are left with the cited real physical POSSIBILITIES.

            Such possibilities are incompatible with the conduct of natural science, since you can make no necessary inferences from observed phenomena. The fact that science appears successful is precisely because the PSR IS operative.

          • You correctly cited me above saying, “The important point is
            that once you deny the universal, you lose all assurance that beings have reasons.”
            It is the loss of assurance that is fatal to science, not the loss of some reasons.

            No it isn't fatal at all. First, all you lose is the assurance that everything has a reason, not anything. And we know logically that all explanatory chains will terminate in either an infinite regress, circular logic, or an axiom that cannot be further justified. That axiom can be a brute fact, and that would not in any way ruin our ability to explain anything, since all explanatory chains are built upon this trilemma. Secondly, I think it's ironic that the person who says science can't explain everything thinks that science is destroyed because it won't be able to explain everything if there's no PSR.

            If you do not KNOW that phenomena have reasons, then you cannot draw any necessary inferences from them.

            We can look for explanations, and if we find one that works, that satisfies basic scientific criteria, then we can confidently conclude it's an explanation. And even if you deny brute facts, most Thomists acknowledge that there are epistemic brute facts. These would be facts that have a reason but there's no way of knowing them. If fact X has no explanation, and fact Y has an explanation, but it's in principle unknowable, then fact Y might as well be a brute fact from the point of view of intelligibility. This is further reason to reject your claim that brute facts are impossible, and it doesn't even consider how things like the Münchhausen trilemma challenges this above.

            Hence follows the points made in a reply to someone else:

            “If facts and beings need no sufficient reason, then the following become real physical possibilities: (1) something begins to be from absolutely nothing, (2) something ceases to be at any time for no reason at all, (3) properties of things can appear and disappear for no reason at all, (4) something performs operations, while having no particular nature related to them and no special conditions to elicit them.”

            Most of these claimed "possibilities" rely on the A theory of time (presentism) which states that temporal becoming is real. I've said over and over that I'm a B theorist. So you just begged a major question in claiming what the consequences of brute facts are. And even on presentism (1) could be wrong. And technically, all of these things are logically possible. The universe does not need to conform to your metaphysics of how it should be. If things happened for no reason in no discernible pattern, then yes, science would be impossible, if not difficult. But they don't, and so science is. But what fundamentally exists is the universe, and if there's no reason why this universe exists and not another one makes little to no difference on the ability of science to work (especially since Thomists like you claim science can't even answer that question to begin with.) Part of this is due to the fact that scientific theories do not always depend on each other to work. They are explanations at different levels. And by the way, anyone claiming that brute facts are logically impossible since explanatory chains are instrumental, in that the lower members derive their intelligibility from higher members, is nonsense. Explanations can exist independent of one another at different levels. You don't need to understand a shred of quantum mechanics to intelligibly understand sociology or economics, for example.

            So you have not in any way whatsoever shown any real consequences of brute facts. You don't even know what you're talking about.

            Such possibilities are incompatible with the conduct of natural science, since you can make no necessary inferences from observed phenomena. The fact that science appears successful is precisely because the PSR IS operative.

            You think this because you don't know enough about science to even know what you're talking about. I've just explained above why it is not so. We do not need the PSR to do science. Science originally didn't assume that things have explanations. It went out to find out if that were true.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, you fail to take the failure of PSR sufficiently seriously.

            If not every thing or being has a sufficient reason, then the bad news is that we cannot ever, ever be certain when a reason is “missing.”

            Now, you say I do not understand science, but I do know enough to realize the in order to observe phenomena and make inferences, you need to know for certain that what you observe has implications for the thing observed. But, if it is really possible for something to exist (or for physical phenomena to appear) without any reason for it, the enumerated items I cited before are real physical possibilities:

            “(1) something begins to be from absolutely nothing, (2) something ceases to be at any time for no reason at all, (3) properties of things can appear and disappear for no reason at all, (4) something performs operations, while having no particular nature related to them and no special conditions to elicit them.”

            And you have no way whatever of ever knowing when there is simply no reason for what happens.

            This would mean that you simply cannot conduct any scientific observations, since you could never know whether reality is giving real reasons for them or not – meaning that you cannot even make any judgments about the thing observed (especially note 3 and 4).

            This has nothing to do with whether your think time is real or not or whether science looks for explanations. It has to do with the impossibility of even being sure of the meaning of basic observations.

            Your argument in favor of science is based on simple pragmatism. It works. We find explanations and they work to help us understand the cosmos. I agree that they do, but it all would be objectively meaningless if you took seriously your alleged destruction of the PSR. It works, but that is simply because the PSR is true, not because we happen to find explanations that don’t really need to be there all the time.

            As for the nature of God, you simply haven’t a clue as to how this works. There is no denial of the PSR, since God is his own sufficient reason for all that he is and does. The fact that there is one and only one God does not make him a brute fact, since unlike a brute fact, he is his own sufficient reason and his sufficient reason is his nature as the Infinite Being. As I have said repeatedly, there simply has never been an alternative God that was possible, since only one God exists and this is he, free choice and all.

            You seem to think that an act cannot be free unless a rational agent weighs alternate possibilities before making his decision, which would mean a timeless being cannot be free. But the problem is you are inserting God back into time. His free choice contains “simultaneously” the knowledge of its alternatives. The problem is that even the word, “simultaneously,” makes God sound like he is in time, when he is not.

            You keep trying to make God conform to logic. I do not deny logic, but would just like to point out that God, as the ultimate source of all being, is himself the foundation of logic – not its creature.

          • At this point you're just trying to deny the obvious: your metaphysics is grounded in the same logic mine is.

            First, you fail to take the failure of PSR sufficiently seriously.

            I do. I just have to constantly show why you're completely and utterly wrong in your claims about it.

            If not every thing or being has a sufficient reason, then the bad news is that we cannot ever, ever be certain when a reason is “missing.”

            And your god doesn't have a sufficient reason. Your god exists because your god exists.

            And the fact that we can't be certain is irrelevant to our ability to be reasonable or do science.

            But, if it is really possible for something to exist (or for physical phenomena to appear) without any reason for it, the enumerated items I cited before are real physical possibilities:

            They all or most rely on presentism being true, which you have not justified at all.

            And you have no way whatever of ever knowing when there is simply no reason for what happens.

            So? That does nothing for our ability to be reasonable or do science. Especially since logic itself must terminate in that trilemma I mentioned and that doesn't stop us from being logical, and science can't answer all questions - it must take certain things for granted and go from there.

            This has nothing to do with whether your think time is real or not or whether science looks for explanations. It has to do with the impossibility of even being sure of the meaning of basic observations.

            It does because you assume presentism to justify (1) which is not even the case by the way. But you're completely wrong here. If there existed 1 brute fact in the entire universe and every thing else had an explanation/reason, nothing in science or logic would be hurt, especially since all those those systems start from axioms that cannot be justified.

            I agree that they do, but it all would be objectively meaningless if you took seriously your alleged destruction of the PSR.

            You've never showed that. It wouldn't because there would still be things that have explanations and science would find them. And on Thomistic theism, god is in control of all things - every atom in the universe. So it could be a coincidence that whenever you do A that B happens. A doesn't cause B, it's just that god makes B happen coincidentally. Theism opens up this.

            It works, but that is simply because the PSR is true, not because we happen to find explanations that don’t really need to be there all the time.

            You continue to assert the PSR even after I've successfully been able to expose your explanation for god is god A exists because god A exists. Hilarious.

            As for the nature of God, you simply haven’t a clue as to how this works. There is no denial of the PSR, since God is his own sufficient reason for all that he is and does.

            I think I know how this works a lot better than you. God exists because god exists. That's circular logic. Asserting that god is his own sufficient reason does absolutely nothing to absolve you from the fact that your metaphysic terminates in circular logic. Why does god A exist? Because god A exists.

            The fact that there is one and only one God does not make him a brute fact, since unlike a brute fact, he is his own sufficient reason and his sufficient reason is his nature as the Infinite Being.

            God B would have the same nature. So why doesn't god B exist? Let me guess - it's because god A exists! Wow, circular logic. It doesn't tell me why god A exists.

            As I have said repeatedly, there simply has never been an alternative God that was possible, since only one God exists and this is he, free choice and all.

            I can say the same exact thing about the universe - an eternal universe can never have been otherwise. And you cannot have free choices if there is no other ontological possibility available. You're just repeating your talking points now.

            You seem to think that an act cannot be free unless a rational agent weighs alternate possibilities before making his decision, which would mean a timeless being cannot be free.

            Yes, and also, if there is no other ontological possibility available you cannot have free choices.

            But the problem is you are inserting God back into time. His free choice contains “simultaneously” the knowledge of its alternatives.

            God has no alternatives if there is no other ontological possibility. And since god's "choice" of A is not logically necessary, there is no explanation of why choice A is there. What's the point of having knowledge of alternatives if none of them are ontologically possible?

            You keep trying to make God conform to logic. I do not deny logic, but would just like to point out that God, as the ultimate source of all being, is himself the foundation of logic – not its creature.

            That can't possibly be the case since god is illogical. A timeless unchanging being must be causally impotent by definition. And a god who is not logically necessary but that still exists must be a brute fact. As soon as logic and your god don't match you want to imply that god is somehow beyond logic. This is why we atheists can't take your religion and god seriously.

            So again: is there a logically necessary reason why god A has to exist, rather than god B?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            God exists because he is the only being in which essence and existence are one. This is not circular reasoning, but pointing to something about the nature of God that makes him unique and entirely unlike the finite, changing universe you claim is eternal. I know we could get into a massive dispute about all this, but my point is simply that God is nothing like your eternal cosmos and that metaphysics offers internal reasons as to why God is his own sufficient reason. It is not merely an assertion that God exists because he exists.

            I have already explained in another post that this is not a choice between two Gods as you propose. It is a single God, whose concept of nature you simply reject. Without a full course in metaphysics, the most I can do is to describe the nature of God and try to get you to understand why he is not a “brute fact” as you define one.

            I have answered much of the rest of this post on another post, but I am not so naïve as to think I am about to convince you.

            Frankly, I could respond to you ad infinitum, but I can see that to convert your worldview, we could have to go through the whole panoply of philosophical sciences, including epistemology. And that still would not work.

            I haven’t got time for that, and I would hope neither have you. If you want to proclaim to others that you defeated a theist because he gave no further response, that is your prerogative.

            I shall let you have the last word.

          • God exists because he is the only being in which essence and existence are one.

            Why does god A exist and not god B, god C, god D, god E.....?

            This is not circular reasoning, but pointing to something about the nature of God that makes him unique and entirely unlike the finite, changing universe you claim is eternal

            Saying "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did," is circular logic because there is no necessary reason why god A exists: it just does!

            Our universe could be past and future eternal, in which case it could be infinite, so you can't claim to know our universe is finite. Secondly, given eternalism, the universe as a whole is unchanging, so you can't claim that it is changing as well. Third, I can say, just as you can, that our universe exists and not another universe or no universe because our universe does exist and no other possibility ever did. Same logic as yours.

            I know we could get into a massive dispute about all this, but my point is simply that God is nothing like your eternal cosmos and that metaphysics offers internal reasons as to why God is his own sufficient reason.

            And I've offered plenty of reasons why your metaphysics is false, and all you ever do is just keep repeating them.

            It is not merely an assertion that God exists because he exists.

            Saying "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did," is an assertion. If I said the same thing about anything else you would agree it's an assertion. At this point you're just in denial.

            I have already explained in another post that this is not a choice between two Gods as you propose.

            And your reasoning for that is circular logic. If you're going to be this intellectually lazy and still assert that you have logic backing you up, why should I even bother with you?

            It is a single God, whose concept of nature you simply reject. Without a full course in metaphysics, the most I can do is to describe the nature of God and try to get you to understand why he is not a “brute fact” as you define one.

            I've already mentioned to you, that I don't think you've responded to, that even if I granted your arguments that there must be a god, you have absolutely no justification why there should be god A vs god B, god C, god D, god E. Saying those other gods are not ontologically possible since god A is the one that happens to eternally exist, is no different from justifying our universe's existence by acknowledging that it's the one that happens to eternally exist.

            At any time, feel free to provide us a non-circular argument explaining why god A exists and not god B, god C, god D, god E.....

            I don't need a crash course in metaphysics. All of AT metaphysics is ultimately rubbish, based on false assumptions derived from false understandings of how the universe works.

          • I was just made aware that I had not responded to this comment...so I will address your comment point by point in typical fashion. You are under no obligation to respond, this is only to get my perspective on record.

            First, you fail to take the failure of PSR sufficiently seriously.

            I take it seriously, believe me, and I see no reason its rejection leads to all the consequences you claim. In fact, I'm positively confident they don't and have plenty of arguments why.

            If not every thing or being has a sufficient reason, then the bad news is that we cannot ever, ever be certain when a reason is “missing.”

            So? You can never know regardless and this does nothing to hinder things that do have explanations. You will also never know when you've hit an epistemic brute fact with certainty.

            But, if it is really possible for something to exist (or for physical phenomena to appear) without any reason for it, the enumerated items I cited before are real physical possibilities:

            “(1) something begins to be from absolutely nothing, (2) something ceases to be at any time for no reason at all, (3) properties of things can appear and disappear for no reason at all, (4) something performs operations, while having no particular nature related to them and no special conditions to elicit them.”

            And you have no way whatever of ever knowing when there is simply no reason for what happens.

            This would mean that you simply cannot conduct any scientific observations, since you could never know whether reality is giving real reasons for them or not – meaning that you cannot even make any judgments about the thing observed (especially note 3 and 4).

            There are so many issues here I have trouble where to begin. What we have are a good understand of the laws of physics that operate in the universe. The laws of physics tell us what to expect in the universe. And they say things don't pop into existence in the universe or disappear or change properties radically. So we do have an expectation and a reason why these things won't occur. Now the laws of physics aren't necessary, they just are the way they are as far as we know. And that means there is nothing in principle impossible by something popping into existence with no explanation in principle, we just don't live in that world. But what this all means is that everything in the universe as far as we can tell has an explanation. The universe as a whole need not have an explanation. It is possible that there can be just one brute fact and all other things have explanations. If that were the case, your scenario would never happen. Whether we'll know any fact has an explanation is impossible to know with certainty. You cannot prove with absolute certainty everything will have an explanation, and you can never know with certainty you'll hit an epistemic brute fact. So from the point of view of intelligibility, nothing is compromised.

            I agree that they do, but it all would be objectively meaningless if you took seriously your alleged destruction of the PSR. It works, but that is simply because the PSR is true, not because we happen to find explanations that don’t really need to be there all the time.

            Not at all. You are 100% incorrect when you imply to assert that absent the PSR nothing would have an explanation. That is simply a false claim. And my argument is not completely based on pragmatism. And science itself doesn't start with the assumption everything has an explanation, and doesn't lose power if that is false, because as we agree, science doesn't explain everything. Hence, science begins on assumptions it cannot in principle explain. If those assumes had no explanation in principle, it would not hinder the scientific enterprise one bit.

            There is no denial of the PSR, since God is his own sufficient reason for all that he is and does. The fact that there is one and only one God does not make him a brute fact, since unlike a brute fact, he is his own sufficient reason and his sufficient reason is his nature as the Infinite Being.

            There is a denial of the rationalist version of the PSR which says literally everything has a reason, and you never of course are upfront about which version of the PSR you are using. The scholastic version of the PSR doesn't say everything has a reason. It claims every ontological fact has a reason, but still there is no reason why a god with a specific non-necessary will exists. "God is his own sufficient reason for all that he is and does" answers absolutely nothing. It doesn't give me the reason why a god with a specific non-necessary will exists, and it doesn't tell me whether that reason is necessary or contingent. Although, since it isn't necessary it must be contingent. I simply don't think you've taken this dilemma seriously enough.

            As I have said repeatedly, there simply has never been an alternative God that was possible, since only one God exists and this is he, free choice and all.

            As I have said repeatedly, a being/thing that cannot have done or been otherwise, and has no logically necessary reason why it is the way it is, has no free will. Why did god "freely" choose this universe and not a different one? If you cannot give a reason that satisfies the PSR, you have no business saying the atheist's universe as a brute fact is impossible.

            But the problem is you are inserting God back into time. His free choice contains “simultaneously” the knowledge of its alternatives. The problem is that even the word, “simultaneously,” makes God sound like he is in time, when he is not.

            I'm saying if there are no alternative possibilities, if god could not have done otherwise, there is no free will. This is libertarian free will. Of course you can just redefine "free will" to not include alternative possibilities but then we're just in a game of semantics. I see no reason to accept such a definition of free will. Also, an eternal universe that could not have been otherwise can be just as suppositionally necessary as any god you claim.

            I do not deny logic, but would just like to point out that God, as the ultimate source of all being, is himself the foundation of logic – not its creature.

            That's just your opinion. There's no reason for me to accept your god exists, is the ground of all being, or is the foundation of logic. It's just nothing but empty assertions.



          • Dennis Bonnette

            Among the traditional Thomistic understanding of the principle of sufficient reason’s best defenses is this passage from Bro. Benignus Gerrity’s Nature, Knowledge, and God (1947), pp. 400-401: "But is the principle objectively valid? Is it a principle primarily of being, and a principle of thought only because thought is about being? The answer is found through the intellect's reflection upon itself and its act. The intellect, reflecting upon its own nature, sees that it is an appetite and a power for conforming itself to being; and reflecting upon its acts and the relation to these acts to being, it sees that, when it judges with certitude that something is, it does so by reason of compulsion of being itself. The intellect cannot think anything without a reason; whatever it thinks with certitude, it thinks by compulsion of the principle of sufficient reason. When it withholds judgment, it does so because it has no sufficient reason for an assertion. But thought - true thought - is being in the intellect. The intellect is actual as thought only by virtue of some being in it conforming it to what is; whatever the intellect knows as certainly and necessarily known, it knows as the self-assertion of a being in it. This being which compels the intellect to judge does so as a sufficient reason of judgment. Nothing, therefore, is more certainly known than the principle of sufficient reason, because this is the principle of thought itself, without which there can be no thought. But by the same token the intellect knows that the principle of sufficient reason is a principle of being because it is being, asserting itself in thought, which compels thought to conform to this principle."

          • It does assume the PSR because it assumes that lacking a sufficient reason or explanation for existence while existing is the same as not existing, and this would only be true on the PSR.

            And again, if my argument is invalid, where is it invalid?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I notice you give a reason as to why the principle of sufficient reason is allegedly false. If you really believe what you are saying, why bother giving any reasons?

      It is a bit of a pity to see modern atheists attempt to relate the content of classical metaphysics, when the giants of the medieval period had centuries to work out the metaphysical problems the moderns cannot even express accurately.

      The web site to which you link and from which you entire argument appears to have been taken, defines a brute fact as “a fact that has no explanation in principle….”

      Without indulging all the misconceptions that may be packed into your formal argument, let me explain why God’s creation of the world is entirely compatible with the principle of sufficient reason.

      The world is created by God, and so it has a sufficient reason. God Himself has a sufficient reason, since He is his own sufficient reason.

      You seem to think that God willing to create this particular world from all
      eternity entails some sort of logical problem. It does not.

      Because of the divine simplicity, in God all is identical (save for the theologically known distinctions of relations found in the Blessed Trinity). That means that His intellect, will, acts of intellection, acts of will, and the divine substance itself are one and the same. Yes, He is eternal and utterly outside of time. Thus, the beginning of the world was a beginning for the world, but not for God. God eternally willed and caused the world to have a beginning with time as a property of material creation.

      Was God forced to create this particular world in some fashion? Absolutely not. He knew from all eternity He would make this unique creation, but He was utterly free in so choosing to do so. He did so, not for the desire of anything the world could give Him, but simply to freely manifest His own glory. There was no neo-Platonic necessity in this free creative act.

      Now, is there an after-the-fact necessity? Yes, there is. Since God did, in fact, make this world, from all eternity He "had" to do so. This leads one to think that some sort of logical necessity binds God to this particular creation. But that is to engage in a form of Monday morning quarterbacking. We know that God eternally made this world and chose to do so for all eternity solely because we are here to see the effects of His eternal choice.

      There is the logical necessity that what He has written He has written. That just means that His free will freely willed what it freely willed. He was in no manner forced to make that choice, since the object of His choice, the world that He made, in no manner forced His decision – a decision that eternally expressed His very being as identical to the Free Choice that He is.

      From God’s perspective, He is an act of free choice, an eternal choice, which begat this particular creation. There was no ontological necessity a priori making Him make this choice.

      From OUR perspective, it appears necessitated solely because we are already on the receiving end of this eternally unchanging choice.

      Again, absolutely no violation of the principle of sufficient reason is entailed here. God is His own reason and His free eternal creative act is the world’s reason. There is no brute fact here at all. Since God’s own free choice is both absolutely free, and yet, absolutely identical with His eternally unchanging, but infinitely active, essence (which is identical to His act of existence), the creation of the world is perfectly grounded in God as its sufficient reason.

      • I notice you give a reason as to why the principle of sufficient reason is allegedly false. If you really believe what you are saying, why bother giving any reasons?

        Because denying the PSR isn't the same thing as saying that everything has no reason, it simply means that it is logically unavoidable that at least one thing has no reason for it's being. So your counter here is a false one.

        Now let's break apart your logic defending the PSR:

        The world is created by God, and so it has a sufficient reason. God Himself has a sufficient reason, since He is his own sufficient reason.

        This assumes the theory of time known as presentism, and you've offered no justification for it. Hence it begs a major question. God is not his own sufficient reason since it is logically possible that god could eternally exist with a different will.

        God eternally willed and caused the world to have a beginning with time as a property of material creation.

        If it's logically possible for god to have eternally willed other things, then you will necessarily run into a brute fact. An eternal god who could have willed otherwise is no different from an eternal universe that could have been otherwise. Divine simplicity is completely irrelevant here in avoiding the fact that your view (as well as all views) must entail at least one brute fact.

        Was God forced to create this particular world in some fashion? Absolutely not. He knew from all eternity He would make this unique creation, but He was utterly free in so choosing to do so. He did so, not for the desire of anything the world could give Him, but simply to freely manifest His own glory. There was no neo-Platonic necessity in this free creative act.

        Yes he was since god eternally desired to create this one universe and not a universe that was different (if even by one single atom) or no universe at all. That means it technically could not have been otherwise. There could never have been this god eternally existing with a different will, even though it is logically possible. Also a god that is timeless is causally impotent, since creation requires time, it requires change, and no amount of fancy theological footwork can get you out of this since it is a logical necessity and god is not beyond logic.

        Is it logically necessary that god create a world at all? If not, then his desire to create one is contingent in the sense of it could have been otherwise and that non-necessity will eventually lead you to a brute fact.

        Now, is there an after-the-fact necessity? Yes, there is. Since God did, in fact, make this world, from all eternity He "had" to do so.

        There is no after-the-fact when dealing with god's eternal desires. And you're also assuming this world is made, rather than being eternal, a la eternalism.

        This leads one to think that some sort of logical necessity binds God to this particular creation. But that is to engage in a form of Monday morning quarterbacking. We know that God eternally made this world and chose to do so for all eternity solely because we are here to see the effects of His eternal choice.

        Which means god had no free choice. In fact, there is no such thing as a "choice" to a timeless being. A timeless being doesn't choose anything. The point remains the same: An eternal god who could have willed otherwise is no different from an eternal universe that could have been otherwise. Hence you can't avoid brute facts.

        From God’s perspective, He is an act of free choice, an eternal choice, which begat this particular creation. There was no ontological necessity a priori making Him make this choice.

        Logically, this makes no sense. You cannot freely make an eternal choice that could have been otherwise.

        From OUR perspective, it appears necessitated solely because we are already on the receiving end of this eternally unchanging choice.

        Even before creation (to the extent that this makes sense) god is necessitated to desire what he desires since it's eternal, and yet, it's not logically necessary god desire what he desires since it's logically possible it could have been otherwise. You will have to bottom out in a brute fact.

        Again, absolutely no violation of the principle of sufficient reason is entailed here. God is His own reason and His free eternal creative act is the world’s reason. There is no brute fact here at all. Since God’s own free choice is both absolutely free, and yet, absolutely identical with His eternally unchanging, but infinitely active, essence (which is identical to His act of existence), the creation of the world is perfectly grounded in God as its sufficient reason.

        Absolutely nothing here makes logical sense. It's just a word salad. You cannot have a god eternally desiring something that could have been different and avoid a brute fact.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I guess what constitutes a word salad depends upon who is
          about to eat it.

          You claimed that a brute fact had to exist in terms of God’s relation to the world. I explained why it did not. In doing so, I
          hypothesized some things about God that happen to be true metaphysically. But they don’t have to be true. They only have to be possibly true in order to defeat your claim that brute facts must exist.

          The problem is that you do not appear able to conceive God as an eternal, unchanging, pure act in which his will act is identical with his very substance – an eternally outside-of-time unchanging act of pure will, whose object includes creating this world. This appears incomprehensible to
          you.

          You say, “You cannot have a god eternally desiring something that could have been different and avoid a brute fact.” I have tried to explain how the “could have been different” is not like God sat there and weighed alternatives before choosing this choice. That is how we humans do it,
          not God. God knows full well from all eternity the difference between what he could make and what he chooses to make. How you make a brute fact of any of this is beyond me. Is it a brute fact that he made this choice as opposed to any other? But the choice (that is, what he chose) has a cause or sufficient reason, namely, his will act (that is, his act of choosing what he chose).

          I suspect that you are surreptitiously inserting God into
          time somehow in order to see this as impossible. We only know what his eternal choice is because we are on the receiving end of it and are now judging it ex post facto. The very fact that you claim that there is no such thing as choice
          for a timeless being makes me think that you are slipping God into time.

          If a brute fact is a fact with no reason, there are none
          such here. God is the reason both for himself and for each and every existent in the created world. Creating time for him does not mean that he is in it or measured by it in any way. It is a inherent limitation of the kind of world he created, not a limitation of the Creator.

          And if it is possible that there are no brute facts, the PSR remains defensible as the OP demonstrates.

          • You attempted to explain why it did not but in doing so you do what all A-T metaphysicists do and make a bunch of sophisticated sounding untruths.

            I hypothesized some things about God that happen to be true metaphysically. But they don’t have to be true. They only have to be possibly true in order to defeat your claim that brute facts must exist.

            They do not defeat my arguments however. Once you accept that there are contingent facts about god that happen to be true, you lose the argument.

            The problem is that you do not appear able to conceive God as an eternal, unchanging, pure act in which his will act is identical with his very substance – an eternally outside-of-time unchanging act of pure will, whose object includes creating this world. This appears incomprehensible to you.

            You appear unable to conceive of the fact that such a concept makes contradictory claims. God is not above logic. Change logically requires time. A timeless being cannot change anything, and that includes creating a universe. If god's will is identical to his substance, and god's will "that happened to true" and isn't logically necessary, then god's substance "that happened to true" and isn't logically necessary. And that would have to be a brute fact. Sorry, but I still think you're in denial of this.

            "just happened to be" and isn't logically necessary

            Which means god has no free will since he is eternally frozen with a will (and substance) that is not logically necessary yet could never have been otherwise, it just happened to be the case that it was desire A and not desire B, C, D....

            How you make a brute fact of any of this is beyond me.

            Simple, Just look at the logic above.

            Is it a brute fact that he made this choice as opposed to any other? But the choice (that is, what he chose) has a cause or sufficient reason, namely, his will act (that is, his act of choosing what he chose).

            There is no choosing with a timeless eternal being. That is not an option. God didn't chose X, he just eternally exists with desire X. It happened to be true (your words). What caused his will act? It either has a cause or not. If it has a cause, then it needs a cause. If it has no cause then god cannot have control over it, since you cannot by definition have control over something uncaused. And why did god will what he willed?

            God is the reason both for himself and for each and every existent in the created world.

            If I keep asking you why god willed what he willed, since it isn't logically necessary, it must terminate in a brute fact.

            Creating time for him does not mean that he is in it or measured by it in any way. It is a inherent limitation of the kind of world he created, not a limitation of the Creator.

            No because god is not beyond logic and what you're asking me to accept is that god does the logically impossible.

            And if it is possible that there are no brute facts, the PSR remains defensible as the OP demonstrates.

            But you have yet to show they are impossible with out assuming the PSR in the process and hence your logic utterly fails to refute the necessity of brute facts.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See my reply to Richard Morley immediately above this post.

          • Richard Morley

            If I may attempt to rephrase:

            To make a choice, in the sense that humans choose, would seem to me (and I suspect to The Thinker) to imply a temporal process.

            God is timeless, so he cannot change, and if he is necessary his nature cannot in any way be random. So what you are referring to as a 'choice' made by God is in fact something that flows necessarily from his intrinsic nature, in contrast to humans. So 'choosing' to create a universe, and this one in particular, must be a part of God's timeless unchanging nature.

            Yet he created a universe that is claimed to be not-necessary - the universe could have not existed, or it could have existed differently, without flamingos, for example, or with blue flamingos rather than pink ones.

            This leads to an apparent contradiction:
            God's nature is necessary
            the choice to create this universe is part of God's nature
            the choice to create this particular universe is not necessary

            So God's nature is both necessary and not necessary(?) If a different God, one whose nature involved not creating a universe or making flamingos blue, were possible instead of this one, any one particular God would not be necessary.

            You can get out of this by arguing that the universe is in fact somehow necessary, pink flamingos and all, but that rather undermines the argument for God.

            Edit: rearranged sentences in paragraph 2

          • Dennis Bonnette

            In his second major work, Philosophical Investigations, the famed linguistic analyst Ludwig Wittgenstein warned that people can become “bewitched” by the formalisms of their own language.

            You are seeing a contradiction here where none exists. Just because God is the Necessary Being, it does not follow that whatever he chooses must flow necessarily from his eternal essence. When you play with terms, like “necessary” and
            “contingent,” it is easy to become bewitched by what you think is the necessary logic of your contingent thinking.

            What exactly does it mean to say that God’s nature is necessary? Do you think it automatically means that he can do nothing other than he did in creating this particular contingent cosmos? Beware the Monday morning quarterbacking syndrome. We know he made the choice to create this unique world solely because we are looking at it as creatures in time seeing it already in existence. That does
            not mean that God had no choice but to make this world.

            Let me try to explain it again. God is his own eternal choice to create this unique world. Just because he is the Necessary Being, that does not mean that he necessarily
            had to (note the human past tense) create this and only this world. Since he did, in fact, make this unique world, it follows that his eternal choice was to make this world. But being entirely free in his nature, his eternal free choice can be identical to his nature without that meaning that his nature was “forced” to make this world.

            You claim to drive your point home by saying,” If a different God, one whose nature involved not creating a universe or making flamingos blue, were possible instead of this one, any one particular God would not be necessary.”

            Now you are bewitching yourself with words. The “different” God you hypothesize as a logical alternative may sound like a logical alternative, but it is not an ontological alternative – which means it is not a real possibility. The one and only God that actually exists is the one whose free nature eternally chose to make this unique world. No other possible God has ever actually existed or even been actually possible to exist, since the one and only real God is eternally identified with the choice to make this particular creation – even if your bewitching logic hypothesizes a "different" God. You logic is invalid, since your logical possibility is not a real one.

            There is no “brute fact” here since God is his own sufficient reason, whereas a brute fact has no sufficient reason. This eternal choice has no “cause,” because a cause is an extrinsic sufficient reason and God has no extrinsic reason, since he is his own intrinsic sufficient reason. That “sufficient reason” is identical to his own essence or nature which is identical with his own free choice. In a word, God’s choice is caused by nothing, since it (which is identical to God himself) is its own sufficient reason.

            Every being needs a sufficient reason, but not every being needs a cause.

            And because I have just explained why there are no brute facts here, the PSR remains defensible as the OP demonstrates.

          • We know he made the choice to create this unique world solely because we are looking at it as creatures in time seeing it already in existence. That does not mean that God had no choice but to make this world.

            It does if eternalism is true.

            If god's will is identical to his substance, meaning he is his will, and god had an eternal will that is not logically necessary and could have been otherwise, but yet is eternal, then that makes some aspects about god necessarily brute facts, since there will be no way to derive a full coherent, logically necessary explanation for why god eternally wills X and not Y. It 'just is' will eventually have to be your termination.

            The one and only God that actually exists is the one whose free nature eternally chose to make this unique world.

            But since it is not logically necessary that god with eternal desire X exists, and there is no ontological possibility of god with eternal desire Y, there will have to be a brute fact in there somewhere since you will never be able to explain why god with eternal desire X exists. It's just like our universe. It is not logically necessary that our universe exist. But since our universe is eternal (a la eternalism) then it is ontologically impossible that our universe not exist. You and I are in the same logical boat here: we both will have to terminate in a brute fact eventually.

            There is no “brute fact” here since God is his own sufficient reason, whereas a brute fact has no sufficient reason.

            That explains nothing, it just asserts it. What sufficient reason explains why god exists with the eternal desire for X and not Y when nothing logically requires nor denies X or Y?

            This eternal choice has no “cause,” because a cause is an extrinsic sufficient reason and God has no extrinsic reason, since he is his own intrinsic sufficient reason. That “sufficient reason” is identical to his own essence or nature which is identical with his own free choice. In a word, God’s choice is caused by nothing, since it (which is identical to God himself) is its own sufficient reason.

            Again that explains nothing for why god exists with the eternal desire for X and not Y when nothing logically requires nor denies X or Y. Can you see the paucity of your reasoning?

            And because I have just explained why there are no brute facts here, the PSR remains defensible as the OP demonstrates.

            You haven't done that at all. If you think the above actually gets you out of brute facts, I'm at a loss to see why. Why god eternally exists with the desires he has is still unexplained by you.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Honestly, I suspect that we are having a problem defining what is meant by a brute fact. If you mean it is something given for which there is no reason, that does not apply to God, since he is his own reason for being and acting as he does.

            If you mean that a brute fact that God has no intellectual basis for his eternal choice to create this world, that overlooks the nature of God as pure intelligence -- meaning that his actions are based in his own infinite understanding of his infinite nature. He knows from all eternity what he can do and freely elects to create what he creates with an intellectual foundation in his own being.

            Having reasons for a free choice does not make human choices to be unfree. Our demanding that God somehow is determined by his own reasons for his choice goes beyond the demands of reason on our part. His choice may simply entail the will that certain persons should be as a manifestation of his glory. I do not intend to tell God why he should choose as he does. I know the Bible says that his ways are inscrutable. This does not mean contrary to reason, but surely beyond human ability to fully grasp.

            I notice that you keep talking about God having "desires." In man, desires are mandated by his finite and created nature. So, "desires" makes it sound as if God were somehow determined by his own free choice to create. He did not and does not have to create, since he already possesses infinite good in his own nature.

          • I do suspect that that there is some confusion going on between us. By brute fact I do indeed mean a fact for which there is no reason.* Saying that god is his own reason for being and acting as he does is not an explanation. It does nothing.

            Your view is that god is identical to his will. So a god with a different will is a god with a different substance, and in effect, is a different god. So god with eternal desire A is a different god than god with eternal desire B. For simplicity let's just call them god A and god B.

            There is no logically necessary reason why god A exists, rather than god B, since both are possible and neither is impossible (assuming god is not incoherent). So your metaphysics only covers one aspect of this: that there needs to be a god. But it doesn't demonstrate why there needs to be god A vs god B, or any other god with a different eternal and unchanging will (which again, will be a different god).

            Since there is no logically necessary reason why god A has to exist, the reason why god A exists and not god B/C/D/E... etc, cannot be based on a logically necessary reason. So your metaphysics fails to explain why we have the particular god we have. Given this, only non-necessary, contingent reasons can explain why. They will all necessarily be reasons that could have been otherwise, and ultimately when drilling down to why any particular answer explains a non-necessary aspect of god's will (and therefore his substance) you must terminate in a brute fact at some point since there is no logically necessary reason available to you.

            And you completely failed to answer my question above.

            Any intellectual basis for god's eternal will is not necessary and could have been otherwise. So why this particular intellectual basis and not another one will always terminate in a brute fact when one drills down into the reasons for the basis, since it is non-necessary.

            I suspect that you haven't fully grasped the problem you're in. You keep reasserting that a god is necessary, you have done nothing to explain (and not assert) that god A is necessary.

            Regarding human choices, I'm not sure where you're going with that. Libertarian free will is an incoherent concept and that means even god cannot have it. There is no logically necessary reason why god wills that certain persons should be as a manifestation of his glory. It could have been otherwise, and there will be no coherent explanation why this will vs that will eternally exists. Many aspects of god's nature (on the Thomistic view) are indeed contrary to reason, and the one size fits all excuse for avoiding this is to claim that god is beyond human ability to fully grasp.

            He did not and does not have to create, since he already possesses infinite good in his own nature.

            All that does is further emphasis my point, that god's will could have been otherwise, and that this will necessarily lead to to a brute fact about why god A vs god B eternally exists.

            *Now this is all of course on the assumption that it is a fact that god exists.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think I see your reasoning more clearly now, and that is a help.

            Still, the key reason why your argument is flawed lies in the concept that there is a logical possibility of an alternate God. Not every logical possibility is a real possibility. A real possibility is something that could actually exist. But since the one and only true God happens to be the one and only one who has made whatever choices he has, that is the only God that is actually possible.

            I suspect a bit of that "Monday morning quarterbacking" may be going on in your mind, since it appears that God could have done something else -- in which case, the divine simplicity would seem to imply that a different God would have existed.

            But that "alternative" happens simply to be a contrary-to-fact hypothesis, having no ontological basis whatever. The one and only true God who actually exists is the one who has made the choices which constitute his very being in the eternal "now" which is his mode of life. There is not now, and never was, a "potential" other God.

          • You've acknowledged that there is a logical possibility. You've just said that there isn't an ontological possibility since god is eternal. I'm saying the same logic applies to the universe since it is eternal. It is logically possible it may have been different, or not at all, but it is not ontologically possible since it's eternal. And given the falsity of the PSR, the eternal universe in the way it is can be a brute fact. If fact, it has to ultimately lead to one, even if you try positing a god created it (which is technically impossible since you cannot create anything eternal). You will only replace one brute fact with another. But of course that defeats the whole purpose for god.

            Also, you seem to be conceding that god A is not logically necessary.

            Now I'm arguing that god A would also be a brute fact if god A existed. There would be no explanation why god A existed vs god B. It is irrelevant whether or not it is contrary to fact. The logical possibility is all I need to conclude that god A would be a brute fact, and you have not in any way shown otherwise. You still have not even attempted to explain why god A exists rather than god B.

            And again, you can't choose anything if you are timeless, unchanging, and eternal. Only beings that change over time can choose.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Unicorns are logically possible, but they are not actually possible unless there is something that can actually make them.

            You assume the falsity of the PSR to prove your point. That is a false assumption.

            Metaphysics fully accepts the fact that the universe could be eternal, if God chose to make one to be eternal. Since he exists eternally, he could will/create it eternally.

            Beware the use of the term, “eternal.” When you predicate it of the universe, it denotes endless time. When predicated of God, it defines the simultaneous and complete possession of infinite life – something very different.

            The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did. God B was never a real possibility because the only God that exists is God A. You are again trying to
            go back in time and think of two possibilities. God is outside of time and there never was an actual possibility of any God but him.

            Finally, the fact that you think that “only beings that change over time can choose” reveals just how materialistic your mindset is.

          • Ok time for some questions:

            (1) Is there a logically necessary reason why god A has to exist, rather than god B?

            (2) If there is no logically necessary reason why god A has to exist, rather than god B, are you conceding that god A is not logically necessary?

            Metaphysics fully accepts the fact that the universe could be eternal, if God chose to make one to be eternal. Since he exists eternally, he could will/create it eternally.

            God can't freely choose anything if there's no ontological possibility if it being otherwise. If there's no ontological possibility of you choosing something, you have no free will. Secondly, timeless beings can't choose. Choose means there is a time when you had not made the decision. That doesn't apply to a timeless frozen god.

            Beware the use of the term, “eternal.” When you predicate it of the universe, it denotes endless time. When predicated of God, it defines the simultaneous and complete possession of infinite life – something very different.

            I've been clear that when I say eternal, I'm referring to eternalism, which does not require endless time to be eternal.

            The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did.

            That isn't a logically necessary one, and so you're admitting god A is not logically necessary. And saying that god A exists simply because god A does, can be applied to the eternal universe: The reason why our eternal universe exists and not another eternal universe is because our eternal universe does exist and another eternal universe never did.

            So there. Logically, your explanation and mine are identical. You have no leverage over mine. You're literally saying god A exists because god A exists. That's not a sufficient reason. That's a circular reason, or a brute fact. I find it stunning that you don't see this.

            Finally, the fact that you think that “only beings that change over time can choose” reveals just how materialistic your mindset is.

            Oh not at all. If I grant a mind with no physical properties, differing mental events still constitute change. And change logically requires time.

          • The reason why our eternal universe exists and not another eternal universe is because our eternal universe does exist and another eternal universe never did.

            And yet I don't think many theists would accept this as a response to a fine tuning argument! In fact Dr Bonnette seems to really be undercutting the very notion of logical possibility in his responses. Which is fine, but then they can't pick and choose when it applies.

          • Yes, use this dialogue as a case study for how you can get a Thomist to admit their "explanation" of god is really nothing more than circular logic.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you look at my other post to you, you will see that I do not fall into your "circular" trap.

          • I've looked and broken down all of your relevant posts on this subject and you do not in any way avoid the circular logic trap.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The reason why your hypothetical eternal universe exists is because God is eternally creating it! God alone can be his own reason for being. No finite being or group of beings can do that.

            No, I don't plan to debate that with you, since that is not the topic of the thread. I just want to show that there is a different way of looking at your "eternal" universe.

            My real answer to this supposed dilemma about God I just posted elsewhere on this thread.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Your logical trap here does not work for the simple reason that we are not dealing with alternative possible Gods.

            There is but one God. The real question is how could he freely create this world if there was no real possibility of him creating a different one. This question fundamentally misunderstands what is going on here.

            The only necessity involved is that, given that God made the choice to create this world and not another, it is necessary that he made this choice. That is like saying, given that you robbed this bank, you must have robbed this bank. But you did not have to rob the bank. And God did not have to create this unique world.

            Saying that the sufficient reason for this choice is God himself is not circular reasoning, since only one term is involved and nothing logically prevents a thing from being its own reason for existing. If he is his own reason for existing, and if his existence is identical to his own choice, then he can be the sufficient reason for his own choice.

            Nor is it a brute fact, since a brute fact has no sufficient reason, and God is his own sufficient reason.

            Your second question I translate as follows:

            How can a timeless God make a free choice?

            You define choice as requiring that “there is a time when you had not made the decision. That does not apply to a timeless frozen god.” Whether physical or merely mental, you insist that “change logically requires time.”

            The fallacy of your definitions is the assumption that there must be a time before the decision is made and that a free decision requires a change within a mind.

            If you understand God’s eternity as being an eternal NOW, there can be no time before a decision is made and no change can be involved.

            Imposing the conditions of our free decisions on God is prone to error. We must weigh alternatives and make a decision that moves us from potency to act.

            But God, as pure act, is eternally aware of the difference between his knowledge of simple intelligence and his knowledge of vision; between knowing what he could create and knowing what he actually chooses to create. If you say you cannot imagine how he can in one and the same act know what he can create and choose to create it, that is because we are creatures of time.

            Not being limited by time, God is simply eternally his own free decision to create this unique world. God’s will is identical with its act, since there is no potency in God. Therefore his will act is not the actualization of a power. It depends on no prior conditions or dispositions for willing. God’s free will is eternally actualized; God always wills what he wills.

            Contrary to your supposition, in God there is no time before his decision and no change involved in him actually being his own eternal free act.

          • Your logical trap here does not work for the simple reason that we are not dealing with alternative possible Gods.

            And yet you still can't answer my questions head on. So again, a simple yes or no will suffice:

            (1) Is there a logically necessary reason why god A has to exist, rather than god B? Yes or no.

            (2) If there is no logically necessary reason why god A has to exist, rather than god B, are you conceding that god A is not logically necessary? Yes or no.

            The only necessity involved is that, given that God made the choice to create this world and not another, it is necessary that he made this choice.

            It is not logically necessary, and that's the point. It just happened to be. God's B,C,D, and E are all logically possible. When you theists claim that us atheists can't explain our universe's existence because it's logically possible it didn't exist, you're doing the same exact thing I'm doing here with your god.

            I hope you one day realize the serious problem you're in. I still think you're in denial right now.

            That is like saying, given that you robbed this bank, you must have robbed this bank. But you did not have to rob the bank. And God did not have to create this unique world.

            And this exposes the problem of your thinking here. If me robbing the bank eternally existed and could not have been otherwise ontologically speaking, then yes, I did have to rob the bank. Pointing out it is logically possible I might have not, shows the problem you're in: you have no logical reason why god A exists and you know it.

            Saying that the sufficient reason for this choice is God himself is not circular reasoning, since only one term is involved and nothing logically prevents a thing from being its own reason for existing.

            Circular reason is saying that god A exists because god A exists, which is exactly what your logic grounds down to. I've asked you why god A exists and you've got nothing.

            If he is his own reason for existing, and if his existence is identical to his own choice, then he can be the sufficient reason for his own choice.

            He isn't his own reason for existing, since you have no reason to explain why god A exists -- this is obvious to anyone reading this thread. I'm not completely naive to your metaphysics. I've read Feser, and studied up on it. I can easily spot the flaws in the reasoning. And they are massive. God's existence being identical to his "choice" actually makes you position a lot harder to justify. It makes it impossible.

            Nor is it a brute fact, since a brute fact has no sufficient reason, and God is his own sufficient reason.

            "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did," is not a sufficient reason, it's a circular one. I'd challenge you or anyone on this site to refute that. You refuse to try.

            The fallacy of your definitions is the assumption that there must be a time before the decision is made and that a free decision requires a change within a mind.

            Not at all. This is the standard understanding of a choice that we all understand. If you eternally existed with a "choice" and this choice was identical to your substance, it would be tantamount to being born with a physical feature, like black skin, or eternally existing with black skin. That wouldn't be a choice, that would be a property.

            If you understand God’s eternity as being an eternal NOW, there can be no time before a decision is made and no change can be involved.

            Right, which means it makes no sense to use the word "choice" when applying it to god. God's choices would be its unchanging properties, and you can't have any choice in eternal unchanging properties.

            Imposing the conditions of our free decisions on God is prone to error. We must weigh alternatives and make a decision that moves us from potency to act.

            Which means it makes no sense to use the word "choice" when applying it to god. God doesn't make choices, god eternally exists with certain mental states that could not have been otherwise. That's not a choice.

            But God, as pure act, is eternally aware of the difference between his knowledge of simple intelligence and his knowledge of vision; between knowing what he could create and knowing what he actually chooses to create.

            Again, if god is ontologically unable to "choose" anything other than what he eternally decided, the word choice here in the libertarian sense is meaningless.

            Not being limited by time, God is simply eternally his own free decision to create this unique world.

            Why did god choose to create this world and not another one, given how it is ontologically impossible for god to have done otherwise.

            God’s free will is eternally actualized; God always wills what he wills.

            That's not free will. You are literally trying to convince me that libertarian free will includes conditions where it is ontologically impossible to have willed otherwise. This is the kind of absurdity taking Thomist seriously devolves to.

            Contrary to your supposition, in God there is no time before his decision and no change involved in him actually being his own eternal free act.

            I've never said god has time before his decision. That's clear to anyone reading me. I've said that to decide and choose requires time before deciding and choosing, and since this doesn't apply to god, god does not decide and choose. God simply eternally exists with decisions already have been made and there is no logically necessary reason why those decisions exist vs other ones, and this ultimately leads you to a brute fact, and the proof of that is, "The reason why God A exists and not God B is because God A does exist and God B never did".

          • Richard Morley

            If he is his own reason for existing, and if his existence is identical to his own choice, then he can be the sufficient reason for his own choice.

            God can be his own reason for existing at all only because we concede (for the sake of argument) that the existence of at least one such timeless being is necessary.

            For him to also be his own reason for being this particular logically possible God, it would also have to be necessary for him to be this particular logically possible God and not any other. Even if you ask us to concede this too, that rather implies that this universe is somehow necessary, which rather undermines the reason for asserting the necessity of a God in the first place.

            To put it another way, if it is logically necessary for one God to exist out an infinite number of logical possibilities, that explains only the existence of a God. But if only one particular God actually exists, the PSR demands a sufficient reason why. If that God can be his own reason, so can all the others, so they should all exist.

            This is the sense in which the non determinism of QM is said to argue against the PSR - even if you take the existence of spacetime as sufficient reason for a quantum event, that is only sufficient reason for it happening at all. If the quantum event can happen at different times, or in some other way with different outcomes (e.g. a particle being spin up or down) that is nondeterministic then there is no sufficient reason for why one possible outcome is eventually observed rather than the other possibilities. Unless you opt for something like the many worlds interpretation.

            Not being limited by time, God is simply eternally his own free decision to create this unique world. God’s will is identical with its act, since there is no potency in God. Therefore his will act is not the actualization of a power. It depends on no prior conditions or dispositions for willing. God’s free will is eternally actualized; God always wills what he wills.

            If you are saying that God's 'choices' are radically different in nature from what we normally think of as choices, I agree. Which is why I think using scare quotes, or a different word, is sensible.

            Whatever such a God 'wills' 'thinks' 'chooses' or 'does' must be an intrinsic part of his nature. You seem to alternately affirm and deny this.

          • I think your second and third paragraphs correctly assess and hit on the problem that Thomists confront. Dennis's only response to why one particularly logically possible god exists and not any others is simply that the one that does exist, does exist. That's the only justification he's provided so far. And I think we'd both agree that this is not a sufficient reason why, which undermines the PSR - the very thing that Thomists so desperately and passionately defend.

            I don't think many (or any) Thomists have realized the magnitude of this problem they're in. They can't even be consistent with their own metaphysical justifications that they argue are absolutely necessary and undeniable.

          • Phil

            Hey Thinker,

            The Aristotelian-Thomist uses reason to show that only one God who is Being itself/Pure Actuality could even possibly exist. So positing other "Gods" doesn't make any sense.

            If one tries to posit another God who is Being Itself/Pure Actuality, one has to say what is different from this entity of Being Itself/Pure Actuality already posited. When one does this, that new entity automatically becomes not Pure Actuality/Being Itself and therefore is not God. If one posits no difference at all, then one is referencing to the self-same thing.

            Therefore only one entity who is Being Itself/Pure Actuality can possibly exist. This we call "God".

          • Richard Morley

            The Aristotelian-Thomist uses reason to show that only one God who is
            Being itself/Pure Actuality could even possibly exist. So positing other
            "Gods" doesn't make any sense.

            Other possible Gods. That is to say that if the argument from necessity only shows that a God must exist but fails to precisely define that God, such that numerous 'Gods' could fit the bill (e.g. Gods who would create different universes, or none), then we have a big logic hole to fill.

            If you are arguing that a necessary God must be precisely defined by the argument from necessity, and so be entirely necessary in every detail of his being, I agree. But that implies that if God's attributes include the existence of this specific universe, that must mean that the existence of this specific universe is necessary.

          • Phil

            Hey Richard,

            That is correct -- the arguments that lead the Aristotelian-Thomist to their conclusions of a single God necessarily lead one to a handful of specific necessary properties. (One being that there only exist a single entity).

            Some of those properties:
            -One
            -Immaterial
            -Perfectly Simple
            -Immutable
            -Pure Actuality
            -Being itself
            -Eternal

            But that implies that if God's attributes include the existence of this specific universe, that must mean that the existence of this specific universe is necessary.

            None of a Thomist's reasoning leads one to conclude in the necessity of this universe, or any universe whatsoever. God must necessarily be completely outside of material reality itself. God is the reason why anything outside God exists.

          • Richard Morley

            If God is the reason anything exists, specifically if he causes this particular universe, then either this universe is necessary or we have that logic hole.

            There is a contradiction in asserting that a necessary God necessarily creates this universe but that this universe is not necessary. Or that a necessary timeless being 'does' anything not necessary.

          • Phil

            If God is the reason anything exists, specifically if he causes this particular universe, then either this universe is necessary or we have that logic hole.

            There is a contradiction in asserting that a necessary God necessarily creates this universe but that this universe is not necessary.

            Just because God is necessary, that doesn't mean that anything outside God is necessary. Remember, for the Aristotelian-Thomist (A-T) God is separate from the material cosmos and anything outside God's self.

            The A-T never claims that this universe is necessary. In fact, it is precisely because this universe is not necessary (in the fact that it could not have existed at all or could have existed in a potentially infinite amount of other ways) that Aquinas reasons to the existence of God.

            So the correct statement would be that God is Being itself, the non-contingent entity, who then chose to create this specific contingent material reality.

          • who then chose to create this specific contingent material reality.

            Merely pushes the problem back a step. Are there reasons for that choice? Are those reasons contingent or necessary?

          • Phil

            Hey Jimmy -

            Merely pushes the problem back a step. Are there reasons for that choice? Are those reasons contingent or necessary?

            Is that not solved by understanding that God is simply the type of entity who can choose to create this reality rather than that reality? I.e., an entity with perfectly free will?

          • That's borderline incoherent, unless you're claiming its arbitrary/random. Or would you take it toward a best possible world? if so then by what metrics? that sounds like reasons again.

          • Phil

            Here would be Aquinas' answer himself (most specifically #3):

            http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1019.htm#article3

            (If God has free will, then it makes perfect sense that God could create or not create. God could choose what to create.)

          • Richard Morley

            Here would be Aquinas' answer himself (most specifically #3):

            Therefore whatever He wills, He wills necessarily.

            ...and if a necessary being necessarily wills something that 'choice' is clearly necessary.

          • Phil

            ...and if a necessary being necessarily wills something that 'choice' is clearly necessary.

            If you are not familiar with the Summa, that is what Aquinas calls an "objection". He then goes through and refutes each objection in his "I answer that" and then specifically responds to that objection further down under "Reply to objection 1":

            Reply to Objection 1: "From the fact that God wills from eternity whatever He wills, it does not follow that He wills it necessarily; except by supposition."

            ----

            In his "I answer that" Aquinas says:

            "Hence, since the goodness of God is perfect, and can exist without other things inasmuch as no perfection can accrue to Him from them, it follows that His willing things apart from Himself is not absolutely necessary. Yet it can be necessary by supposition, for supposing that He wills a thing, then He is unable not to will it, as His will cannot change."

          • Richard Morley

            If you are not familiar with the Summa...

            I am - I have read it before and read the page you referenced. I was saying that I agree with the phrasing of that objection, in fact I suspect that that was where I first came across it.

            I disagree that his answer solves the problem, at least that aspect that the Thinker raises here, but couldn't decide on how to phrase the reason why. Since it was late (for me, in the UK) I decided to post that and sleep on the rest. If that was confusing, mea culpa.

            Finite, temporal creatures like ourselves or Plato can make non-necessary choices such as whether to sit or stand, travel by horse or on foot, without contradiction. Those choices can be influenced by factors external to ourselves, or they can be truly random if you have no objection to non determinism. If you do, you can still get around that by recourse to something analogous to the many worlds interpretation of QM - we may observe Plato to be sitting, but in an alternate version or history Plato is standing. And we can change, having come into existence, we can make later choices without violating our nature or the rules of logic.

            God does not have this luxury, so ST's rebuttal fails, in my opinion. God cannot change, or be influenced by external factors, or have an aspect of his nature that is random or that could be different.

            This is a large subject, hence my decision to sleep on it, but it boils down to what Dr Bonnette and you yourself have said:

            If one tries to posit another God who is Being Itself/Pure Actuality, one has to say what is different from this entity of Being Itself/Pure Actuality already posited. When one does this, that new entity automatically becomes not Pure Actuality/Being Itself and therefore is not God.

            And from Dr Bonnette:

            God is his own eternal choice to create this unique world.

            As soon as you admit some aspect of what God is (which in his case includes all that he does, wills, chooses, says etc..) that is not tied down by the argument from necessity, one that is random or that could be different, then you hit the logic gap of which I spoke. Or as you put it he "automatically becomes not Pure Actuality/Being Itself and therefore is not God", although I prefer my phrasing. Other potential Gods could exist in his stead, so either none are necessary in their own right or all are.

          • Phil

            I gotcha, Richard; sorry for the confusion when you quoted Aquinas.

            Some words from the author of the above article (Dr. Bonnette) helped to clarify what I was trying to get at. Here is what he stated:

            The main issue is to think that because God is the Necessary Being that all that he does must flow necessarily from his essence. What flows necessarily from his essence is that he will his own good and that all lesser choices necessarily must be freely made. The necessity is in his act of existence, not in the way in which he freely chooses to exercise that act in reference to creatures.

            This may be analogous to human freedom. God makes our nature and determines it to be precisely as he creates it. So, is it determined? Yes and no. Yes, it is determined to be as he makes and sustains it in its secondary causality. But no, in that God determines us to have a nature, one of whose properties is a free will that is sustained in its operations to choose freely when it so acts.

          • Richard Morley

            That is just a re-assertion that some part of what God does (and therefore is) is random rather than necessary. It does not address the clash of that assertion with the PSR.
            a)I don't think that can be true
            b)If it is, it leaves a lacuna in the assertion that God is 'sufficient reason' for his own existence, or ours

            For God's existence to be necessary, God must be the only God whose existence would satisfy the alleged contradiction of him (or something like him) not existing.

            As soon as you admit any non necessary aspect to his being, such as him just choosing out of free will to do X, he is no longer the necessary being, just one of many possibilities of which at least one must exist. At which point the PSR demands a sufficient reason.

            If it is logically possible to have a God who created a different universe or none, but one alone actually exists, then that 'choice' must be either wholly necessary (which you seem to deny) or at least somewhat random (which violates the PSR).

            To rephrase:
            If God could have created a different universe or none:
            -He is not the necessary being, just one of many possibilities
            -He is not sufficient reason for this universe existing. He is sufficient to explain this universe being possible but does not adequately explain why this one possible universe is actual.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See comment at top of thread.

          • I think I grasp the essence of the objections several of
            you raise. Simply put, the argument is that, if God freely wills to create the world, either:

            1. This is a brute fact, having no sufficient reason, and therefore shows that the PSR is not universally true.
            OR....
            2. There is a sufficient reason for this choice and God is not actually free, but rather this “choice” flows from his nature necessarily.

            I think the argument is more along the lines of - if god's eternal 'choice' doesn't flow necessarily from his nature, then it ultimately must be a brute fact, because the answer to why god willed A and not B cannot be a necessary one, and will always therefore be a state that logically could have been otherwise. Whether or not this eternal 'choice' is impossible to have been otherwise ontologically speaking is beside the point. It doesn't answer the question of why god eternally willed A and not B.

            The answer lies in the fact that God is truly the First Cause and that his eternal free choice is not moved to act at all. It is never not in act. So, there is no problem of reduction from potency to act. There is no unfolding “decision process” to be gone through.

            I think we here can all accept that god doesn't move from indecision to decision, since god is timeless it's impossible for such a being to do so, as that would require change, and change necessitates time. But the problem is still there as to why god eternally exists with decision A and not B. Since you admit it is not logically necessary, part of god's substance and essence are not necessary. And so why you have god A vs god B is a major problem. It will require a brute fact at some point.

            His non-necessary act to create is no more lacking a sufficient reason than is God himself, who necessarily exists in virtue of his essence being one with his act of existence. Solely one such being can exist.

            It totally is, since if you can arrive at god's necessary aspects by pure logic, you will not be able to do so with god's non-necessary aspects. And because you can't do so, you will be forced to hit a brute fact at some point.

            What flows from that eternal Pure Act flows necessarily with respect to necessary things and non-necessarily with respect to non-necessary things, which latter aspect of the divine being means the same thing as being free and acting freely. The sufficient reason for both necessary and non-necessary aspects is the same divine nature.

            That makes no sense. God's non-necessary things flow non-necessarily with respect to "that eternal Pure Act" which gives god the aspect of "being free and acting freely." (??) God's divine nature cannot cover both his necessary and non-necessary aspects. One aspect has a logically necessary reason, and the other doesn't. And logically necessity is used to argue why a particular kind of god must exist. But you don't have that ability to show god's non-necessary aspects. Claiming god is free and yet eternally wills non-necessary things is hardly free. You're still on the hook in explaining why god A exists and not god B.

            God’s choice to create this unique world is not random or
            without reason, since good reasons for this particular world can be posited and God would certainly know them.

            Einstein famously asked if god had a choice in creating the world. According to your logic the answer is no, since ontologically speaking god's will was eternally frozen and could not have been otherwise, even though it is logically possible to be otherwise. Even if god has reasons for creating this world, since they can't be logically necessary, they must be dependent on something. I can always ask, why did god have that reason and not another reason? Both would be logically possible. Dennis, you are still failing to take your problem seriously.

            The sufficient reason for that selection is the free choice that necessarily flows from God’s non-necessary relation to goods that are inferior to his own necessarily willed divine goodness.

            Why does god 'freely choose' A rather than B? And for that reason, why that reason and not another one? If there's no other ontological possibility for another choice, in what sense is it truly free? If the free choice necessarily flows, in what sense is it truly free? None of this makes sense.

            The demand for a God A vs. God B explanation is not
            legitimate, since it assumes that all that is in God must flow necessarily from his nature.

            No, it's acknowledging that since god's will doesn't flow necessarily from god's nature, you must hit a brute fact at some point to answer it.

            If God has freely chosen to create this unique world, then it is necessary that he has made this choice as opposed to any other. But that does not mean that he had to make this choice, since from all eternity, he has freely chosen this particular creation in a non-necessary manner.

            Ultimately Thomist boils down to an incoherent world salad. What you're doing here is after the fact justification. This is a post hoc ergo propter hoc example. The choice to create our world admittedly is not necessary, and now you're trying to tell us it's necessary simply because it is the case. You're completely incapable of truly explaining why A was chosen and not B. Here, your saying A was necessary because that's what happened to be chosen, when you know it is not logically necessary.

            There is but one true God. Any hypothetical “God B” may
            sound like a logical possibility, but it is not a real possibility, since there is only one God.

            But since god B is as logically possible as god A, you fail to explain why god A exists by merely claiming it's the one that exists. That's circular logic.

            That one God necessarily exists and necessarily is free with respect to creating lesser goods than his own goodness.

            God A does not necessarily exist. That flows from your own logic.

            We now know what choice he makes, since we are among the creatures he has elected from all eternity to make and we now see his creation in act.

            That's no different from saying we know what universe exists because we happen to live in it.

            But this in no way affects the fact that his choice to create this world of lesser goods is both perfectly free and perfectly in conformity with the principle of sufficient reason.

            It absolutely does, since a choice can't be free if there is no ontological possibility of it not happening, and since it isn't logically possible, there is no necessary explanation of why it eternally was the way it was. Any answer you give can always be asked with a follow up, "why?" And you will necessarily hit a brute fact eventually.

          • Phil

            Hey Richard,

            We may have to agree to disagree because I really don't think The above truly undermines what I said above.

            The key again is that the necessity is in his act of existence, not in the way in which he freely chooses to exercise that act in reference to creatures.

            There does not appear to be any logical contradiction in this, if there is I'm happy to have you point it out.

            -------

            -He is not the necessary being, just one of many possibilities
            -He is not sufficient reason for this universe existing. He is sufficient to explain this universe being possible but does not adequately explain why this one possible universe is actual.

            It is the very fact that because this universe is merely possible and not necessary that we must rationally posit an entity which we call God that is pure actuality. That which could not exist in any other way and which could not not exist.

            In other words, God's free choice from all eternity to create this specific material cosmos satisfies the PSR. In no way does this logically undermine the non-necessity of this cosmos, nor God's necessary existence apart from this cosmos.

          • Richard Morley

            The key again is that the necessity is in his act of existence, not in the way in which he freely chooses to exercise that act in reference to creatures.

            Then the ‘necessity’ of your argument only explains that a God exists, not the details of his acts. Bearing in mind that a timeless being is timelessly his every act. So this necessity is not, nor can it lead to, sufficient reason for this universe existing rather than any other.

            Randomness or non determinism must come from somewhere, or you must forsake the PSR. Or the original assumption of randomness existing is false.

            There does not appear to be any logical contradiction in this, if there is I'm happy to have you point it out.

            This has been done, several times. Frustratingly, as with this post, you tend to simply make assertions without addressing the arguments in the post to which you refer.

            For example, this:

            As soon as you admit any non necessary aspect to his being, such as him just choosing out of free will to do X, he is no longer the necessary being, just one of many possibilities of which at least one must exist. At which point the PSR demands a sufficient reason.

            (To clarify: At which point the PSR demands a sufficient reason why one particular one actually exists)

            

            It is the very fact that because this universe is merely possible and not necessary that we must rationally posit an entity which we call God that is pure actuality.

            And it is the fact that the argument winds up contradicting its own postulates that shows that there is a flaw in the logic somewhere. Nor do you address the point that God, as described there, does not provide sufficient reason for one possible universe of many being actual.

            That which could not exist in any other way and which could not not exist.

            Exactly - so if he is his every timeless act and "could not exist in any other way” then his every act is necessary, and therefore so is this universe. So your argument has a fundamental flaw. You either reject the PSR (hence the relevance to the OP) or the concept that the universe is "merely possible and not necessary”.

            In other words, God's free choice from all eternity to create this specific material cosmos satisfies the PSR. In no way does this logically undermine the non-necessity of this cosmos, nor God's necessary existence apart from this cosmos.

            Not your own words, I gather, but still just a blank assertion that does not address the many attempts to explain why this is not so. Asserting "God's free choice" is indeed an appeal to brute fact, and so this does indeed undermine the assertion of this cosmos' non-necessity.

          • Phil

            When distilling everything above, it sounds like you might disagree that God's perfect freedom can be part of God's very essence?

            Because it seems to me that if God's freedom is a part of God's very essence, then there is no further explanation needed for God's free actions apart from the fact that God is perfectly free to will that which God does from all eternity.

            In short, God's perfect freedom is necessary, not the actions that flow from it.

          • The ability to choose doesn't explain the reasons why one choice is made instead of another.

          • Phil

            The ability to choose doesn't explain the reasons why one choice is made instead of another.

            I'd absolutely agree. The point I've been making is simply that what flows from a perfectly free will is not logically necessary. So the argument that if what flows from a free will is not necessary, then the will from which they flow is also not necessary I don't think is logically necessary.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            [To complement Phil's response ...]

            It's true that the ability to choose doesn't explain the choice, but I think the decisive issue is whether an intention underlying a choice can be an (irreducible) explanation for the choice.

            If one is attached to the notion that reality is dominated by an overarching impersonal order, then all (so-called) intentions must be reducible to causal factors within that impersonal order. In that case, there is always an answer (or answers) to the question, "But why is that your intent?". But if there is such a thing as agency (whether human or divine) that is both free and personal, then some intentions are themselves explanatory termini. At least, as far I can tell, an intention can only truly be free to the extent that it is not reducible to other causal factors. That doesn't mean that such intentions are illogical, or ad hoc, or whimsical. The idea is that freely generative intent can have its own (personal) logic, a logic that is not defined by an overarching impersonal order.

            From that perspective, my "decisive issue" can be rephrased as: "Does real freedom exist, or is everything dominated by an impersonal order?"

          • Richard Morley

            When distilling everything above, it sounds like you might disagree that God's perfect freedom can be part of God's very essence?

            A) Define 'freedom'. God, as defined in this discussion, would certainly act solely according to his own nature and the laws of logic, without any external influence or coercion. So from that point of view he would be perfectly free.

            If, on the other hand, you assert that there was a real possibility of God acting, and so being, in many different possible variations of which only one is actual, and there is no good reason for one to be actual over the others, you do indeed have a problem with the PSR, and with your assertion that this particular possible God is 'necessary' in a sufficiently strong sense as to justify him just existing for that reason.

            B) A strong, universal PSR does indeed lead to clashes with the concept of free will. Google it if you haven't come across this before, if you have I don't see the issue here.

            This clash is, of course, even stronger for a timeless, necessary, non contingent being who cannot appeal to random or external factors.

            C) All else aside, your own definition of God as:

            That which could not exist in any other way and which could not not exist.

            (emphasis added)
            ..taken with the assertion by classical A-T theory, Dr Bonnette and others that God's acts and choices are identical with his being, and you would indeed have trouble reconciling both views with free will.

          • Phil

            ..taken with the assertion by classical A-T theory, Dr Bonnette and others that God's acts and choices are identical with his being, and you would indeed have trouble reconciling both views with free will.

            That's maybe the distinction where our "lines are getting crossed". God's acts and choices flow necessarily from his Being, but are not identical with it.

            So again, as long as we understand that God is the necessary ground of all being, which is Being itself, and includes a perfectly free will, and that there is a distinction between the free will from which contingent creatures flow from and the contingent creatures themselves, then no logical problems arise.

            The only real question remains, well, why did God create this particular reality rather than any other that may also be perfectly in line with God's essence? For that, you will have to ask God.

          • Richard Morley

            That's maybe the distinction where our "lines are getting crossed".

            Then your lines are crossed not with me, but with classical A-T theorists such as Dr Bonnette who do assert that God's acts of will are identical with his existence.

            God's acts and choices flow necessarily from his Being, but are not identical with it.

            Now that is closer to how I would phrase what I think they are getting at, but it doesn't help you I'm afraid. If the universe flows necessarily from a necessary timeless God, all the points raised hold true.

            If you start with a necessary, well defined, timeless and non contingent God who cannot exist otherwise, you cannot get to a non necessary consequence ('act' 'choice' or whatever) that is not well defined, necessary and logically unable to exist otherwise without inserting a step that asserts randomness - where a given act can have different results with no good reason to say why one is actual rather than another. That would violate the PSR.

            The only real question remains, well, why did God create this particular reality rather than any other that may also be perfectly in line with God's essence? For that, you will have to ask God.

            Nope, we have to know that there is a reason, as required by the PSR, and we have to deal with the logical consequences. For example, if a train of argument is founded on the postulate that the universe is not necessary but could exist otherwise or not at all, but leads to the opposite conclusion that the universe exists necessarily, then you have contradiction. The argument is shown to be false.

          • Phil

            Now that is closer to how I would phrase what I think they are getting at, but it doesn't help you I'm afraid. If the universe flows necessarily from a necessary timeless God, all the points raised hold true.

            I think you might be still stuck on a pantheistic type pattern of thinking.

            The universe does not flow necessarily. The universe flows from God's will, but the universe is not equal to the substance of God's free will itself. That's the key distinction. That is why God's free will itself--which is selfsame with His existence--is necessary, while what flows from that will is not necessary.

            (To equate to universe with God Himself is pantheism, not theism.)

          • Richard Morley

            I think you might be still stuck on a pantheistic type pattern of thinking.

            What makes you think that? I think that the God described plus the PSR leads necessarily to this universe being necessary, but I don't think I've said that the universe is God.

            The universe does not flow necessarily.

            See my reply to Rob. https://strangenotions.com/are-metaphysical-first-principles-universally-true/#comment-3498096549

          • The key again is that the necessity is in his act of existence, not in the way in which he freely chooses to exercise that act in reference to creatures.

            There does not appear to be any logical contradiction in this, if there is I'm happy to have you point it out.

            I'll be happy to point it out. Since god is his will because his will is his substance (as per Bonnette's claim) then god with eternal will A is god A, and god with eternal will B is god B. Since there is no logically necessary reason why god has will A vs will B, or C, or D, etc., there is no logically necessary reason god A exists. And yet god A does. The Thomist cannot claim god A necessarily exists, as there must be as aspect of god's very nature and substance that is not logically necessary. This forces you into a brute fact eventually.

            Remember, theists who promote the PSR argue that something must either (A) have an explanation in itself (meaning it's logically necessary), or (B) be explained by something else (which will lead to either an infinite regress or something else that is logically necessary). Since the logically necessary option is not available to you for (B), neither option is good for the theist.

            Is this beginning to sink in yet?

          • Phil

            Remember, theists who promote the PSR argue that something must either (A) have an explanation in itself (meaning it's logically necessary), or (B) be explained by something else (which will lead to either an infinite regress or something else that is logically necessary). Since the logically necessary option is not available to you for (B), neither option is good for the theist.

            Yes, (A) is what is relevant to the God that Thomist's reference. That is why one must understand that it is God's perfect freedom that is necessary, not the specific actions that flow from it. God's perfect freedom perfectly explains God's free actions and satisfies the PSR.

            Again, one must understand there is a distinction between the essence of perfect freedom, and the actions which flow from it.

          • But since it is not logically necessary, the PSR requires that it's existence be explained by something else (which will lead to either an infinite regress or something else that is logically necessary). And since the logically necessary option is not available to you for (B), neither option is good for the theist.

            Merely asserting god has a free choice does absolutely nothing to get you out of the problem. Secondly, a being who could not have possibly made another decision ontologically speaking is not free in any way. So you're asking me to accept a contradiction in terms in order to get out of a problem that you really haven't even gotten out it.

          • Phil

            I think we will just have to agree to disagree because I think we simply disagree upon whether if what flows from a free will is contingent, then the free will itself must be contingent.

            In other words, I think for this line of thinking you've presented to have real traction, one would have to show that: If what flows from a free will is contingent, then the free will itself is contingent is logically necessary. I don't think that is the case.

          • I think it's a cop out on your part to 'agree to disagree'. I think it's because you really don't want to wrestle with the problems you face. I can debate this on many levels, including allowing things for the sake of argument.

            Let's say the free will itself isn't contingent. If I assume that true libertarian free will exists for the moment, isn't it the case that the will is still either going to (a) have a cause, that is, an outside explanation, or (b) it will not have a cause. Do you agree with this assessment?

          • Phil

            To agree to disagree is simply to say that I don't think what you are proposing is a logical issue. Sure, there are some tough rational propositions to figure out, but to say that there are true logical contradictions that we are dealing with would not be something I agree with.

            Again, as long as we understand that there is a distinction between God as necessary Being and the contingent creation which flows from that being, there should not be any technical logical issues.

            Again, remember, we have to keep the proper distinction between Creator and creation. It think trying to wrap contingent creation into non-contingent Creator is where some of the issues you are having may be coming from.

          • But you haven't shown why it isn't a logical issue. You just keep asserting an irrelevant (and false) claim. Since there is no necessary reason why there is a god who eternally willed A rather than B, your only routes to explain why A rather than B will lead you to an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or a brute fact. If you disagree with this, then show how this logical problem for you doesn't exist.

            Merely stating "there is a distinction between God as necessary Being and the contingent creation which flows from that being, there should not be any technical logical issues," does nothing. God's will to create must be contingent, since it isn't logically necessary. And then you have the same problem you think I'm in.

            It think trying to wrap contingent creation into non-contingent Creator is where some of the issues you are having may be coming from.

            This is broken English. There is no problem on my part. It seems to me that special pleading is the best you can do to get out of the dilemma.

          • James Chilton

            I conjecture that Bertrand Russell is persona non grata here, but he described Thomas Aquinas' arguments for the existence of God as an example of special pleading.

            Russell observes that Aquinas does not engage in a free intellectual inquiry the result of which is not known in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith.

            If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion already fixed in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.

            Russell concludes that there is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas.

          • Rob Abney

            James, can you provide any examples of where this occurs? It would be interesting to discuss it.

          • James Chilton

            Russell's criticism of Aquinas' arguments as "special pleading" , which I paraphrased, is in Chapter 13, The History of Western Philosophy.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't have access to the book, it is pretty harshly criticized on it's wikipedia page.
            Can you give an example from that chapter that we can discuss?

          • Here is the conclusion of the chapter devoted to Aquinas (Part II, Chapter 13). See here, page 462.

            These merits, however, seem scarcely sufficient to justify his immense reputation. The appeal to reason is, in a sense, insincere, since the conclusion to be reached is fixed in advance. Take, for example, the indissolubility of marriage. This is advocated on the ground that the father is useful in the education of the children, (a) because he is more rational than the mother, (b) because, being stronger, he is better able to inflict physical punishment. A modern educator might retort (a) that there is no reason to suppose men in general more rational than women, (b) that the sort of punishment that requires great physical strength is not desirable in education. He might go on to point out that fathers, in the modern world, have scarcely any part in education. But no follower of St. Thomas would, on that account, cease to believe in lifelong monogamy, because the real grounds of belief are not those which are alleged.

            Or take again the arguments professing to prove the existence of God. All of these, except the one from teleology in lifeless things, depend upon the supposed impossibility of a series having no first term. Every mathematician knows that there is no such impossibility; the series of negative integers ending with minus one is an instance to the contrary. But here again no Catholic is likely to abandon belief in God even if he becomes convinced that St. Thomas's arguments are bad ; he will invent other arguments, or take refuge in revelation.

            The contentions that God's essence and existence are one and the same, that God is His own goodness, His own power, and so on, suggest a confusion, found in Plato, but supposed to have been avoided by Aristotle, between the manner of being of parti- culars and the manner of being of universal. God's essence is, one must suppose, of the nature of universals, while His existence is not. It is difficult to state this difficulty satisfactorily, since it occurs within a logic that can no longer be accepted. But it points clearly to some kind of syntactical confusion, without which much of the argumentation about God would lose its plausibility.

            There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas, tie does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. lie is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks David, I'll discuss some of this with james chilton in a reply to him.

          • James Chilton

            I understand Russell is reckoned, these days, to be a shallow thinker. But is there any merit in his allegation that Aquinas does not conduct a Socratic inquiry and follow wherever the argument may lead? In other words, does he tailor his arguments to fit conclusions that are already decided?

            You can download a free copy of The History of Western Philosophy at this link. In pdf format, it can be read in iBooks. Chapter 13 on St Thomas Aquinas in one of several on medieval Scholasticism.

            http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/History%20of%20Western%20Philosophy.pdf

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks, that book will require quite a bit of sacrifice to read! I'm not sure that I'll do that after reading the brief summary that david nichol provided and seeing errors in Russell's understanding of Aquinas' writing. Russell classically confuses the proofs for God as temporally ordered series rather than simultaneously ordered series.
            As for the comments on the role of spouses in the education of offspring, I can only find the following from the Summa Theologia:

            I answer that, The chief good of marriage is the offspring to be brought up to the worship of God. Now since education is the work of father and mother in common, each of them intends to bring up the child to the worship of God according to their own faith.

            But the paragraph from Russell just before the quote david nichol provided seems more accurate, where he praises Aquinas' fairness, sharpness, clarity, and imposing intellect. So Russell seems to be simply looking for a way to dishonor Aquinas' reputation as he clearly states "These merits, however, seem scarcely sufficient to justify his immense reputation".

          • James Chilton

            I surmise that you don't think there's any merit in Russell's claim that Aquinas finds arguments for conclusions he is already committed to in advance?

            If there is merit in his claim, that might account for Russell's evaluation of Aquinas' reputation as a philosopher.

          • Rob Abney

            I've read the Summa Theologica several times and haven't seen any evidence to support such a claim. Aquinas has many other writings (but the Summa is his best) so maybe the evidence is elsewhere. If you find examples in Russell's book, ill be glad to discuss it with you.

          • Bertrand Russell does not evaluate the Summa Theologica in his in his history of Western Philosophy but rather the Summa contra Gentiles. Russell says the following on page 453:

            Saint Thomas's most important work, the Summa contra Gentiles, was written during the years 1259-64. It is concerned to establish the truth of the Christian religion by arguments addressed to a reader supposed to be not already a Christian; one gathers that the imaginary reader is usually thought of as a man versed in the philosophy of the Arabs. He wrote another book, Summa Theologiae, of almost equal importance, but of somewhat less interest to us because less designed to use arguments not assuming in advance the truth of Christianity.

            Russell does not minimize Aquinas's achievement.

            In its general outlines, the philosophy of Aquinas agrees with that of Aristotle, and will be accepted or rejected by a reader in the measure in which he accepts or rejects the philosophy of the Stagyrite. The originality of Aquinas is shown in his adaptation of Aristotle to Christian dogma, with a minimum of alteration. In his day he was considered a bold innovator; even after his death many of his doctrines were condemned by the universities of Paris and Oxford. He was even more remarkable for systematizing than for originality. Even if every one of his doctrines were mistaken, the Summa would remain an imposing intellectual edifice. When he wishes to refute some doctrine, he states it first, often with great force, and almost always with an attempt at fairness. The sharpness and clarity with which he distinguishes arguments derived from reason and arguments derived from revelation are admirable. He knows Aristotle well, and understands him thoroughly, which cannot be said of any earlier Catholic philosopher.

            He simply does not consider him a great philosopher:

            There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times.

          • Rob Abney

            Russell doesn't demonstrate that he should be able to pass judgement on Aquinas' contributions since he shows that he doesn't even understand Aquinas' proofs. The worst part of such a faulty judgement is that is discourages his readers from reading Aquinas' writings and deciding for themselves.

          • Ray

            Russell classically confuses the proofs for God as temporally ordered series rather than simultaneously ordered series.

            I am confused by this remark. Russell's counter example to an ordered series always having a first member is the negative numbers. Do you think the negative numbers are temporally ordered?

          • Rob Abney

            depend upon the supposed impossibility of a series having no first term. Every mathematician knows that there is no such impossibility; the series of negative integers ending with minus one is an instance to the contrary

            Yes, he appears to be using the example of negative numbers in a temporal sense rather than the way Aquinas intended, an ontological sense.

          • Ray

            Oh really? Name me one medieval author who believed that numbers exist in time.

          • Rob Abney

            Why don't you just state your case if you agree with Russell's rejection of Aquinas' proofs?

          • Ray

            While I don't find Aquinas's proofs particularly persuasive, my primary point is that you are not giving Russell a fair reading if the best objection you can come up with is to claim that a set of numbers -- something neither Aquinas nor Russell would have regarded as temporally ordered -- is temporally ordered.

            I recognize that the passage of Russell you're referring to does not address every possible objection ( in part because it occurs in a primarily historical work and is not intended to be exhaustive) and I will be happy to fill in possible developments of the ideas, since I largely agree with them, but first you must demonstrate that you understand what is already on the page. Bringing up the issue of temporal ordering does not demonstrate this, for reasons I have already stated (and further reasons I could add if need be.)

          • Rob Abney

            If you're only pointing out that I used the descriptor"temporal" incorrectly and you are able to explain a temporal series as a mathematician understands the term then go ahead and explain it.
            But what Russell implied is that a series without a first term is possible and Aquinas' proofs require a first term.
            But Aquinas' proofs don't require a first term they require a simultaneous term/cause. Maybe it's not persuasive because you've expected a first term.

          • Ray

            Temporal means "involving time." As such it is a physical, not a mathematical concept, so applying it to mathematical objects (e.g. sets of integers) is a category error. The medieval usage in Aquinas and Averroes, for example, is more specific (meant to distinguish a particular sort of physical process, e.g. the generation of a son from a father, from other sorts of physical processes, e.g. the casting of a shadow) but it still assumes corporeality for temporally ordered series.

            The first four of Aquinas's five ways do in fact proceed by introducing some sort of series, positing a first member must exist, and identifying that member with God. This should be most obvious in the case of the "FIRST cause" argument. Aquinas did follow his predecessors in denying that "first" necessarily meant "first in time", but it's very hard to plausibly construe Russell as implying that first means "first in time" either, so this denial is not a reasonable response to Russell. It comes off as a canned response which is deployed without much thought as to what it is responding to.

          • Rob Abney

            It comes off as a canned response which is deployed without much thought as to what it is responding to.

            There's really no need for adding a personal insult.

            But I'd still be interested in hearing an explanation of how Russell's critique undermines the proofs, if it actually does.

          • Ray

            Insofar as the numerical series offered by Russell is a counterexample to whatever principle Aquinas uses to posit a first element in the series introduced by his first four ways, it is a fatal objection to the proofs. To my knowledge, Aquinas never clearly states his principle in a way that would distinguish the series he's interested in from the one offered by Russell. Certainly, as we've already discussed, the temporal/essential ordering distinction will not work.

            To be fair, since Russell does not even mention the fact that Aquinas accepted the possibility of some types of infinite regress, I do suspect Russell is responding more to early 20th century defenders of Thomism than to Thomas himself in his history of western philosophy. In Russell's defense though, the proofs as Aquinas understood them are thoroughly indefensible, since they were originally intended to prove certain, now discredited, aspects of geocentric cosmology in addition to the existence of God. One could therefore make the case that Russell was being charitable.

            Finally, While I agree with Russell that the five ways don't work, I don't actually think they are the best example for supporting Russell's assessment of Aquinas's unwillingness to follow the argument wherever it leads (although, I agree with that assessment as well.) If for no other reason, they are a bad example because only the fourth way is original to Aquinas. Thus, one may attribute them to Aquinas following the errors of his predecessors. A better example is Russell's observation earlier in the chapter that Averroes's (heretical) theory of the soul follows more naturally from De Anima than Aquinas's (orthodox) one.

          • Rob Abney

            You seem to have a lot of faith in Russell because you are basically using him as an authority without looking at his actual reasoning.
            Throwing in subtle derogatory terms such as geocentricism and comparing Aquinas unfavorably to Averroe doesn't support your claim that Russell can demonstrate that any of the proofs are in error.

          • Ray

            My rejection of the five ways is in no way reliant on Russell. My only point is that you seemed to want to ridicule Russell unjustifiably. As far as I can tell, nothing you've written demonstrates that Russell misunderstood Aquinas, or that his objection to the five ways fails. In fact I don't see anything since your first response that even attempts to do so. This is all covered by the first paragraph in my previous response.

            The rest of what I wrote was intended to provide historical context for why Russell might have emphasized different aspects of Aquinas's philosophy than does, for example Feser. The problem of separating the first three of the five ways from their geocentric world view is by no means trivial. Judging by your response, I am guessing you are not aware how inextricably linked geocentrism and cosmological arguments were throughout the Middle Ages. Both take as their authoritative source Aristotle Metaphysics book 12 (see especially part 7). Both the primum movens of theology and the primum mobile of geocentric cosmology were taken to be rigorously proven by Aristotelian commentators including Aquinas. See, e.g. ST question 32 article 1 reply to objection 2, where Aquinas equates the certainty of the proof of the uniform motion of the celestial spheres through philosophical argument to the certainty of the oneness of God. (He contrasts this philosophical proof with the appeal to empirical evidence and revelation required to establish the epicycles and Trinity respectively.)

          • Rob Abney

            My only point is that you seemed to want to ridicule Russell unjustifiably. As far as I can tell, nothing you've written demonstrates that Russell misunderstood Aquinas

            That's unfortunate because I thought Russell's main object was to ridicule Aquinas, so I wasn't ridiculing Russell as much as saying I didn't see that he understood the five proofs based on the short excerpt that was provided. And I did say specifically that I would not commit myself to reading Russell's book but that a Russell supporter could defend Russell's objections. Which is why I've asked you to do just that. But I may not be communicating all of that as clearly as it seems to me!

            I am guessing you are not aware how inextricably linked geocentrism and cosmological arguments were throughout the Middle Ages

            I am not aware of that link but was under the impression that understanding geocentricism incorrectly did not undermine theology. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine to Galileo: «I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun is at the center of the world and the earth in the third heaven, and that the sun does not circle the earth but the earth circles the sun, then one would have to proceed with great care in explaining the Scriptures that appear contrary; and say rather that we do not understand them than that what is demonstrated is false. But I will not believe that there is such a demonstration, until it is shown me»

            The Bellarmine statement, 400 years after Aquinas, appears to be based on the exact reply you just pointed to from Aquinas, although I believe that you mis-interpreted it.

            as in astrology the theory of eccentrics and epicycles is considered as established, because thereby the sensible appearances of the heavenly movements can be explained; not, however, as if this proof were sufficient, forasmuch as some other theory might explain them

          • Ray

            Galileo shouldn't pose as much of a problem for Thomism as Kepler. Galileo's system was still using circles. The lack of an obvious candidate for a primum mobile might be an issue, but probably not an insurmountable one. It is uniform circular motion of the heavens that is described as established by "sufficient proof" by Aquinas, not geocentrism as such. This was discredited by Kepler, not Galileo.

            Regardless, Bellarmine was trying to harmonize astronomy with scripture, not with Aquinas. Thomism wasn't official church doctrine until 1879.

          • Rob Abney

            Ray, a straightforward reading of his reply that you used to demonstrate your point is all that is required to show that you have misinterpreted the text.

            Reply to Objection 2. Reason may be employed in two ways to establish a point: firstly, for the purpose of furnishing sufficient proof of some principle, as in natural science, where sufficient proof can be brought to show that the movement of the heavens is always of uniform velocity. Reason is employed in another way, not as furnishing a sufficient proof of a principle, but as confirming an already established principle, by showing the congruity of its results, as in astrology the theory of eccentrics and epicycles is considered as established, because thereby the sensible appearances of the heavenly movements can be explained; not, however, as if this proof were sufficient, forasmuch as some other theory might explain them. In the first way, we can prove that God is one; and the like. In the second way, reasons avail to prove the Trinity; as, when assumed to be true, such reasons confirm it. We must not, however, think that the trinity of persons is adequately proved by such reasons. This becomes evident when we consider each point; for the infinite goodness of God is manifested also in creation, because to produce from nothing is an act of infinite power. For if God communicates Himself by His infinite goodness, it is not necessary that an infinite effect should proceed from God: but that according to its own mode and capacity it should receive the divine goodness. Likewise, when it is said that joyous possession of good requires partnership, this holds in the case of one not having perfect goodness: hence it needs to share some other's good, in order to have the goodness of complete happiness. Nor is the image in our mind an adequate proof in the case of God, forasmuch as the intellect is not in God and ourselves univocally. Hence, Augustine says (Tract. xxvii. in Joan.) that by faith we arrive at knowledge, and not conversely.

          • Ray

            Please interpret the following two passages:

            Reason may be deployed in two ways to establish a point: firstly, for the purpose of furnishing sufficient proof of some principle, as in natural science, where sufficient proof can be brought to show that the movement of the heavens is always of uniform velocity

            (The second way of employing reason is the shorter passage you quoted earlier.)

            in the first way, we can prove that God is one; and the like. In the second way, reasons avail to prove the trinity; as, when assumed to be true, such reasons confirm it.

          • Rob Abney

            He is referring to types of reasoning, probably inductive and deductive, and comparing the two different types as used also in the natural sciences. He seems to have accepted the natural scientists' conclusion about uniform velocity.

          • Ray

            Leaving aside for the moment what the two categories are, you now agree that Aquinas says that it is the first category of reasoning which establishes the uniform velocity of the heavens and the unity of God, while it is the second category of reasoning which establishes the equants and epicycles and the Trinity. Right?

            (I would interpret both types of reasoning as deductive. In the first type, the deductive argument is sufficient to establish the conclusion on its own, while in the second type, the deductive reasoning is meant to be supplemented with something else -- either a (potentially fallible) appeal to empirical science, or a (reliant on faith) appeal to revelation. I would informally describe the first type of reasoning as a proof, and the second type as a "sanity check.")

            Which of the two types of reasoning seems most similar to how Aquinas thinks of the five ways?

          • Rob Abney

            That's a good question for someone like Dr. Bonnette but I don't think I can answer that. I would be glad to hear your answer if you have one.

            I was only trying to show that Aquinas' use of geocentric ideas was not detrimental to his arguments even if the the natural scientists' geocentric understanding was erroneous.

          • Ray

            I think it's clear that Aquinas considered the five ways to belong to the first, more certain, type of reasoning. Same as the supposed proofs of uniform heavenly motion.

            You are aware that the heavenly bodies (i.e the planets and stars) do not move at a constant velocity, right?

          • Rob Abney

            you are aware that the heavenly bodies (i.e the planets and stars) do not move at a constant velocity, right?

            Ray, what level of intelligence do you think I should have in order to read the Summa? At least enough to know that he compared his "infallible" proof to what he and all others at the time considered also to be an infallible proof of natural science.

          • Basically, all of Thomism is tantamount to arguing after the fact. God exists, they "know," and they have to justify it with a metaphysical story. So when pushed into a corner, the Thomist will always just reassert that their god must exist because his "essence is existence." This has happened a dozen times on this thread, and it completely ignores all the logical problems I've exposed.

          • Phil

            Merely stating "there is a distinction between God as necessary Being and the contingent creation which flows from that being, there should not be any technical logical issues," does nothing. God's will to create must be contingent, since it isn't logically necessary. And then you have the same problem you think I'm in.

            Why is God's will contingent? As both Dr. Bonnette and myself stated, God's perfect free will is identical with God's very self-sustaining act of existence. God is perfectly self-explaining which is why it is irrational to ask, "What explains God", because God explains God.

            What is contingent is the creation which flows from God's non-contingent free will. Creation contingently relies upon God freely willing it from eternity.

          • Is god's eternal will to create our particular universe logically necessary? If yes, then produce a logical argument demonstrating this is true with no exceptions. If no, would you agree that all things that are not logically necessary are contingent?

          • Phil

            Is god's eternal will to create our particular universe logically necessary? If yes, then produce a logical argument demonstrating this is true with no exceptions. If no, would you agree that all things that are not logically necessary are contingent?

            No, the creation of our specific universe is not necessary. And yes, that is why our universe is contingent. The universe is distinct from God, hence God is necessary and the unnecessary universe flows from God's necessary perfect free will.

            As I just mentioned to Richard, the key is: that which flows from God is not part of God. Therefore, different universes would not mean a different essence of God. God's essence as Existence itself is what it is.

          • that which flows from God

            Flows from God for some reason, or not for any reason? Could have flowed from god differently, or could not have flowed from god differently? If it could have flowed from god differently, is there a reason it didn't?

          • Phil

            Flows from God for some reason, or not for any reason? Could have flowed from god differently, or could not have flowed from god differently? If it could have flowed from god differently, is there a reason it didn't?

            That which God creates could absolutely have been different, or not exist at all. Creation flows from God's perfect free will desire. Of course, that which God creates cannot contradict his very Essence. But no creation or a different creation, would not change God's essence whatsoever.

            The key again, is that creation itself does not change God Himself in his very essence. So it matters not whether He created or if He had decided to create a different cosmos.

            In other words, a different contingent creation does not mean a different non-contingent God.

          • Phil

            To add on, it could be the case that if God did not have perfect freedom the argument you present could have some merit. But one has to deny God's perfect freedom first, which neither I nor a Thomist would.

          • I can show that angle is false as well. A god whose will could not have been otherwise ontologically has no free will. It makes no sense to say a will is "free" if there isn't an actual ontological possibility of it having been different. So asserting that god's will is free is not only false, but even if it was free, it still wouldn't get you out of the dilemma. His will will either have to be explained by necessity, or something contingent. Since necessity is not an option, you only have contingency. Contingency will lead you to two options: either an infinite regress of contingent explanations or a brute fact.

            Are you incapable of getting this?

          • Phil

            Since god is his will because his will is his substance (as per Bonnette's claim) then god with eternal will A is god A, and god with eternal will B is god B.

            Another issue is that what you propose here is impossible in the first place, since from Thomistic reasoning either both "god A" and "god B" that you propose are actually the same entity with a single will, or neither is actually what the Thomist calls "God".

            In other words, even proposing the existence of more than one "God" does not make rational sense if following Thomistic reasoning, since reason leads us to conclude that God is pure non-contingent act of existence. And we ask, could there even in theory be more than one? To which the answer is, 'no'.

            One can reasonably ask, why did God choose to create the specific reality that God did? I dunno, we will have to ask God :)

          • Oh no, you're confused. I'm not at all propose that willing universe A is the only will. It's one of many wills that god A has. But since god's substance is identical to his will, god A has a different substance than god B, and is hence a different god. Both are logically possible, and so both should exist since the same exact arguments necessitate their existence. Yet only one does and there is no logically necessary reason why.

            The problem is more than merely not knowing why god eternally "chose" A rather than B. If it isn't a logically necessary choice (and every Thomist agrees it isn't), then you face a dilemma. It will have to be a contingent explanation, and there are only two routes that can go: an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or a brute fact. So merely not knowing why A and not B is not the problem, it's that no matter what the explanation is, since it isn't logically necessary, you will hit that dilemma eventually.

            Do you get it now? Or are you still struggling to see this?

          • Phil

            But since god's substance is identical to his will

            That would actually not be true. That would be a pantheistic God where what God wills (the entire universe) is part of his very substance.

            The God of A-T is a theistic God. What the theistic God wills flow from his "substance" but is not identical with it.

          • It is true. It's what Dennis Bonnett himself has said: "his will act is identical with his very substance". And it's also what Aquinas said,

            Hence in every intellectual being there is will, just as in every sensible being there is animal appetite. And so there must be will in God, since there is intellect in Him. And as His intellect is His own existence, so is His will.

            What this means is that since god's will is his own existence, and since some of god's will is not logically necessary, then multiple logically possible gods exist. You can't just assert that god is theistic. You need to show how the logic backing up your own god doesn't undermine its own claim that there can only be one logically possible god. A-T metaphysics is self refuting.

          • Phil

            I think you are still thinking more along pantheistic grounds. The universe, you, I, etc, are not equal to God's will. We flow from God's will.

            That is why there is no logical issue with saying that God and God's perfect free will is non-contingent, while what flows from it is contingent.

          • No I'm saying your own logic entails pantheism. Is it logically possible god could have a different eternal will?

          • Phil

            No I'm saying your own logic entails pantheism. Is it logically possible god could have a different eternal will?

            A-T specifically leads to that which is not pantheism. If God is to be that which is the non-contingent ground of a being, the contingent realities of which God is the ground of cannot also be God. That would lead to a contradiction. God must be distinct from that which God creates.

            God must necessarily be that which is distinct from all creation and be the non-contingent, self-sustaining ground all that exists outside God's self.

          • BCE

            I only bake cakes for those who don't bake cakes.
            or... if blue and yellow makes orange, then orange minus yellow equals blue
            Many atheists are familiar with logic and syllogisms.
            Mathematicians can see the problem with applying them as you see when a statement doesn't arrive at a known conclusion.
            The axiom might follow the form, but the focus of the game is really the use of modal even though the components are incongruous.
            You are naturally detecting the game

          • Phil

            Hey BCE,

            You may have to clarify exactly what you are getting at; sorry if I missed it!

          • BCE

            The Thinker is using a method
            he states as fact by prefacing with statements like"What this means..." or " "you can't" "you need to...."
            In my example, "if blue plus yellow makes orange...." notice the modal.
            So "if it would be true"that blue plus yellow....
            that method argues the axiom by trying to force your agreement to "if true" while ignoring content.

          • Richard Morley

            Another issue is that what you propose here is impossible in the first place, since from Thomistic reasoning either both "god A" and "god B" that you propose are actually the same entity with a single will, or neither is actually what the Thomist calls "God".

            On the contrary, Gods A and B are two alternate versions of the same God who have made different choices at one point.

            Either:
            A) it is logically possible for God to make different choices, in which case you have many logically possible alternate versions of God and no sufficient reason for any particular one to be actual
            B) it is not logically possible for God to make different choices, in which case his choices, and so the universe, are necessary.

          • Phil

            I think we will simply have to agree to disagree, because again, the key is that which flows from God is not part of God. Therefore, different universes would not mean a different essence of God. God's essence as Existence itself is what it is.

          • Richard Morley

            Well, merely restating your position (without, as far as I can tell, engaging with the arguments we have tried to present as to why your position negates the logical necesity for God and/or is contrary to the PSR) certainly doesn't allow for much else in the way of dialogue.

            If you don't wish to engage with those arguments, fair enough: nice talking to you and thanks for your time.

            If you do, but don't see how to do so other than assertions such as the above, I might suggest telling us:
            A) If you accept Leibniz' Principle of Sufficient Reason:
            "we hold that there can be no fact real or existing, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason why it should be so and not otherwise, although these reasons usually cannot be known by us."
            B) If not, what part exactly do you disagree with and why? Do you, for example, reject it because you don't like the conclusions drawn from it?
            C) If you do accept it, how exactly do you not see that God 'choosing' this universe 'because he just does' violates the statement above?

          • Phil

            I absolutely do accept the PSR, as did Aristotle and Aquinas.

            If you do accept it, how exactly do you not see that God 'choosing' this universe 'because he just does' violates the statement above?

            Because of God's essence as Existence itself, and therefore the necessary ground of all being, all that is needed to satisfy the PSR is God's perfect self-explanatory free will. God is necessarily perfectly free.

            Therefore, God choosing to create or not--or specifically what to create--is perfectly in line with his essence and the PSR.

          • Richard Morley

            But the PSR, the original full version, does not allow for free will in that sense. No one entity (or group of entities) can be sufficient reason for multiple different mutually exclusive outcomes (or 'choices') except by appealing to outside influences that sway them one way or another.

            If A can imply any one of A, B, C or D equally, and only one of the 4 can be true, A cannot be sufficient reason for any one of them. Not without appealing to external factors, which cannot be the case for God.

          • Phil

            If the PSR you are using does not leave room for genuine free choices, then I would not agree with the PSR you are using since it doesn't do a good job describing reality as it exists.

            If A can imply any one of A, B, C or D equally, and only one of the 4 can be true, A cannot be sufficient reason for any one of them. Not without appealing to external factors, which cannot be the case for God.

            God is perfectly self-explanatory, so the reason for A, B, C, or D is simply because of God's perfectly free will. There is no need of an explanation for God's perfectly free will outside itself as God's essence of Being itself satisfies the PSR.

          • Richard Morley

            Not unless you are asserting that God's 'choices' are brute facts with no sufficient reason.

          • Richard Morley

            In fact, it is precisely because this universe is not necessary (in the fact that it could not have existed at all or could have existed in a potentially infinite amount of other ways) that Aquinas reasons to the existence of God.

            Which is why the second paragraph is relevant. If a necessary timeless God created this universe, he must have done so necessarily, so this universe must be necessary. So the A-T reasoning leads to contradiction.

            God necessarily is his every 'thought' 'choice' and so on.

            Nor does any of this get you out of an absolute PSR - if this universe could be different, or not exist at all, there must be a reason why. Either God could not 'choose' otherwise, so this universe is necessary, or he could have done and so requires a sufficient reason for choosing this universe.

          • Phil

            This is Aquinas speaking to the points you are bringing up (#3 is most relevant):

            http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1019.htm#article3

          • The A-T never claims that this universe is necessary. In fact, it is precisely because this universe is not necessary (in the fact that it could not have existed at all or could have existed in a potentially infinite amount of other ways) that Aquinas reasons to the existence of God.

            The problem with this logic is that it fails to realize the dilemma the A-Tist is in himself. If our universe is eternal, and I think it is (I'm an eternalist) then it is not ontologically possible it could have been otherwise. Sure, it may be logically possible, but this universe could never fail to exist, since an eternal universe by definition cannot not exist.

            Now the A-Tist has the same logic. Dennis admits god with eternal will A is not logically necessary, because god with eternal will B, or C, or D,...etc are all logical possibilities. But he claims that since god with eternal will A is eternal, god B,C, and D are not ontologically possible. This is the exact same logic I use for the universe.

            Bottom line is this, unless you can make an argument that god with eternal will A is logically necessary, you've got that logic hole mentioned above. I will keep driving this point until you Thomists get it. Claiming god 'freely chose' A does absolutely nothing to get you out of the hole.

          • Phil

            If our universe is eternal, and I think it is (I'm an eternalist) then it is not ontologically possible it could have been otherwise. Sure, it may be logically possible, but this universe could never fail to exist, since an eternal universe by definition cannot not exist.

            This is a different topic, but to clarify, there is a difference between a material cosmos that was willed to exist from all eternity (i.e., an eternally existing cosmos) and one that exists necessarily.

            Our material cosmos could very well have existed eternally into the past, but that does not mean that it exists necessarily. It still needs an explanation for why it has existed eternally. And the Thomist says that reason is the perfectly self-explaining and self-sustaining "God" which exists apart from the material cosmos.

            In other words, it would not be true to claim, "If our material cosmos has existed eternally into the past, then our material cosmos exists necessarily."

            All one gets with an eternally existing material cosmos is a lot more contingent changes to explain!!

          • There is no difference between a god that doesn't exist necessarily, and a universe that doesn't exist necessarily. Since god is identical to his will, and his will is not necessary, god's substance is not necessary, and there is no logical argument to show god with eternal will A is necessary.

            And an eternal universe cannot be willed to exist, since it cannot fail to exist. A thing cannot have the property of eternality and non-existence.

            Our material cosmos could very well have existed eternally into the past, but that does not mean that it exists necessarily.

            Agreed. God with eternal will A may have existed eternally, but that does not mean that it exists necessarily. Same logic applies to your god.

            It still needs an explanation for why it has existed eternally.

            God with eternal will A, and not equally logically possible god with eternal will b,C,D...etc. still needs an explanation for why it has existed eternally. And claiming god had free will does absolutely nothing to explain that.

            And the Thomist says that reason is the perfectly self-explaining and self-sustaining "God" which exists apart from the material cosmos.

            But that of course fails because there is no logically necessary reason why god eternally willed our particular universe. So all it does it just push the problem back a step. You're still going to hit a brute fact eventually. It doesn't matter what the Thomist says, it matters what he can logically prove or demonstrate. And you cannot get out of your dilemma.

            In other words, it would not be true to claim, "If our material cosmos has existed eternally into the past, then our material cosmos exists necessarily."

            In other words, it would not be true to claim, "If god with eternal will A has existed eternally into the past, then god A exists necessarily."

            All one gets with an eternally existing material cosmos is a lot more contingent changes to explain!!

            All one gets with an eternally existing god is a lot more contingent changes to explain!!

            You're still utterly clueless to the problems you face.

          • It seems like you're a little late to the party. Read all of my comments with Dennis to see why I show this reasoning is false. If god's substance is part of his essence, or is his essence, and god's will is his substance, then if god's eternal will is not logically necessary and could have been otherwise, then god's substance and essence could have been otherwise. That's means it's indeed logically possible for another god to exist. The Thomist has no logical argument why god with will A exists and not god with will B. They forfeit all of their logic.

          • Phil

            The main problem may be the issue of confusing God's perfect free will with that which flows from that perfectly free will. What is necessary is God's perfect free will, not the specific acts which flow from it.

            In other words, it follows from God's very essence that God could have existed from all eternity and never created, and God would continue to lack in no perfection. THAT is the God of Thomism. And that is the understanding that helps to create the proper distinction between creature (the entire cosmos) and Creator.

            In addition, if what one is referencing as "God" could even potentially exist in multiplicity, one is not actually referencing what the Thomist calls "God". By necessity, only a single entity which Thomist's call "God" can possibly exist.

          • I'm not at all making that mistake. First, a god who cannot ontologically be otherwise, cannot be free. This is obvious. If you could not do anything other than what you do, or will what you will, you have no free will. No word salad is going to get you out of that problem. So I deny the claim that god has perfect free will.

            Second, ignoring that for a moment, If it's logically possible god could have willed B, but god eternally willed A, and willing A is not logically necessary, you have a brute fact problem. Remember, theists are always telling me that the universe is not logically necessary; it didn't have to exist. And so in order to explain it's contingency, something logically necessary is required. But since god's will to create our universe is not logically necessary, all that does is push the contingency problem back one step. Unless you can prove god's will to create our universe is logically necessary, you too have the same problem I'm supposedly in. If god's will is not logically necessary, it must be explained by something else, and if that something else is not logically necessary, it too must be explained by something else. And you're going to have an infinite regress problem that you know is untenable, or you're going to terminate in a brute fact eventually - since the option of explaining the contingent will on something logically necessary is off the table.

            Remember, theists who promote the PSR argue that something must either (A) have an explanation in itself (meaning it's logically necessary), or (B) be explained by something else (which will lead to either an infinite regress or something else that is logically necessary). Since the logically necessary option is not available to you for (B), neither option is good for the theist.

      • What about the Trinity? That appears to be a brute fact. Why not a 2,4,or 5 pronged god, or a single one like the Jews and Muslims believe in?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The one God that actually exists is not a brute fact. A brute fact is something for which there is no sufficient reason. God is his own sufficient reason. The metaphysical explanation of this is that he is the sole being in which essence and existence are one and the same, meaning that he exists by virtue of being the kind of being that he is. No other being is its own reason for being.

          As for the “possibility” of other Gods, not every logical possibility is a real possibility. A real possibility is something that could actually exist. But since the one and only true God happens to be the one and only one who actually exists, that is the only God that is actually possible.

          You might argue that that one and only one true God is a different one than Christians believe in. That is a proper object for a faith discussion, but has nothing to do with the present topic.

          • Sure it does, if there is no reason that the 'actual' god is triune instead of 'quadrune', that is a fact without a sufficient reason. A brute fact that you accept.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I may personally accept this as a truth divinely revealed.

            But, if God is his own reason for being, then whatever way he may exist is not a brute fact, since there exists a reason for his existing and being as he is.

            Once again, distinguish between a mere logically possible God and the one and only one that actually does exist.

          • Richard Morley

            But, if God is his own reason for being, then whatever way he may exist is not a brute fact, since there exists a reason for his existing and being as he is.

            What then is the reason for "being as he is" in the sense of 'choosing' to create this universe?

            If it is necessity, a part of God's necessary nature, that amounts to asserting that the universe itself is necessary. If something else, then you have apparent contradictions such as a wholly necessary being with aspects of his nature which are not necessary. Or God's timeless choice being influenced by something outside his nature.

            If there is no reason, that of course violates the PSR.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            God's trinitarian nature is not a brute fact, nor is it only knowable through revelation. The syntax of love involves first person, second person, and relationship between the two, i.e. a trinary syntax. Or as scbrown very poetically puts it from time to time, love has necessary and immutable contours.

    • Rob Abney

      I agree with 1-4.
      I don't see how 5 and 6 are valid. Why would the theist have to say that our particular universe was logically necessary?
      The Thomistic argument, as well as I understand it, concludes that what "all men call God" exists necessarily because His essence is to exist. But the rest of existence, including the universe, doesn't have to exist or could exist in a variety of other contingent configurations with many different essences. That the "one necessary existence" willed the creation that exists doesn't imply that that is the only creation that He could have willed, it only implies that that is the one that He did will.
      Please explain further if you don't mind.

      • The problem with this is that if god is identical to will, meaning, his will is his substance. and it is not necessary for god to will this particular universe -- and yet god eternally wills this universe, then we have a problem: it is claimed god is necessary, and yet god's will (which is is substance) is not necessary. God's will could have been otherwise. It means god's substance is not logically necessary, as it is claimed, god's substance could be different, but since it's eternal, it is ontologically impossible to actually be different. Once you have this a brute fact is required, since you will not be able to explain god's substance/essence by a logically necessary means. In other words, if any aspect of god is not logically necessary, a brute will be entailed.

        • Rob Abney

          Here seems to be your objection, as considered by Aquinas in the Summa question 14.

          Objection 2. Further, every conditional proposition of which the antecedent is absolutely necessary must have an absolutely necessary consequent. For the antecedent is to the consequent as principles are to the conclusion: and from necessary principles only a necessary conclusion can follow, as is proved in Poster. i. But this is a true conditional proposition, "If God knew that this thing will be, it will be," for the knowledge of God is only of true things. Now the antecedent conditional of this is absolutely necessary, because it is eternal, and because it is signified as past. Therefore the consequent is also absolutely necessary. Therefore whatever God knows, is necessary; and so the knowledge of God is not of contingent things.

          I answer that, Since as was shown above (Article 9), God knows all things; not only things actual but also things possible to Him and creature; and since some of these are future contingent to us, it follows that God knows future contingent things.
          Reply to Objection 2. Some say that this antecedent, "God knew this contingent to be future," is not necessary, but contingent; because, although it is past, still it imports relation to the future. This however does not remove necessity from it; for whatever has had relation to the future, must have had it, although the future sometimes does not follow. On the other hand some say that this antecedent is contingent, because it is a compound of necessary and contingent; as this saying is contingent, "Socrates is a white man." But this also is to no purpose; for when we say, "God knew this contingent to be future," contingent is used here only as the matter of the word, and not as the chief part of the proposition. Hence its contingency or necessity has no reference to the necessity or contingency of the proposition, or to its being true or false. For it may be just as true that I said a man is an ass, as that I said Socrates runs, or God is: and the same applies to necessary and contingent. Hence it must be said that this antecedent is absolutely necessary. Nor does it follow, as some say, that the consequent is absolutely necessary, because the antecedent is the remote cause of the consequent, which is contingent by reason of the proximate cause. But this is to no purpose. For the conditional would be false were its antecedent the remote necessary cause, and the consequent a contingent effect; as, for example, if I said, "if the sun moves, the grass will grow."

          Therefore we must reply otherwise; that when the antecedent contains anything belonging to an act of the soul, the consequent must be taken not as it is in itself, but as it is in the soul: for the existence of a thing in itself is different from the existence of a thing in the soul. For example, when I say, "What the soul understands is immaterial," this is to be understood that it is immaterial as it is in the intellect, not as it is in itself. Likewise if I say, "If God knew anything, it will be," the consequent must be understood as it is subject to the divine knowledge, i.e. as it is in its presentiality. And thus it is necessary, as also is the antecedent: "For everything that is, while it is, must be necessarily be," as the Philosopher says.

          • This is not my objection. It is not absolutely necessary that god will A. If the will is the antecedent to the fact of A existing, neither the antecedent nor the consequent are necessary. Hence, when he says that "it must be said that this antecedent is absolutely necessary," he has no justification for that. And if "For everything that is, while it is, must be necessarily be," then an eternal universe must necessarily be, without a god.

          • Rob Abney

            Is this in line with your objection? Phil referred to this last week but I don't know if you responded to it.

            Article 3. Whether whatever God wills He wills necessarily?

            Objection 1. It seems that whatever God wills He wills necessarily. For everything eternal is necessary. But whatever God wills, He wills from eternity, for otherwise His will would be mutable. Therefore whatever He wills, He wills necessarily.
            Reply to Objection 1. From the fact that God wills from eternity whatever He wills, it does not follow that He wills it necessarily; except by supposition.
            from the answer:Hence, since the goodness of God is perfect, and can exist without other things inasmuch as no perfection can accrue to Him from them, it follows that His willing things apart from Himself is not absolutely necessary. Yet it can be necessary by supposition, for supposing that He wills a thing, then He is unable not to will it, as His will cannot change.

            Keep in mind that nearly all of these terms are defined at other points in the summary, so if you object to a term like goodness or perfection it can be explained.

          • No, I'm saying the exact opposite, that what god wills isn't necessary, and this will eventually force the theist to a brute fact in to explain why god eternally wills A and not B, C, D, E, F.....etc.

          • OceanDeep2

            Why God Wills something and not another thing is a theological question which is answered in the scriptures. Philosophically we can just say that why God Wills A is because it is highest possible good and B, C, D, E etc are not so.

          • Then what you're trying to say is what god will is necessary rather than contingent. This flies in the face of Dennis's views and just about everything written on this site. And if our world is the highest possible good, can you prove that logically?

          • OceanDeep2

            I am only answering your why question as to why God Wills A rather than B, C, D etc and that does not lead us to a brute fact or necessity of His Will as people here have pointed out.

            God is Good then that logically leads us to the fact that He would create something Good or the highest possible good. The world in the current state is not the highest possible good. That logically means something went wrong. Since God is Good He is working to reconcile this world through His Word.

          • That makes no sense on so many levels. First, your only choices are that it's logically necessary or contingent. If it's contingent, that what explains it must either be contingent too, or logically necessary. Since there is no argument for logical necessity, you will either be faced with an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or you will hit a brute fact. Since the infinite regress is absurd, you are faced with the brute fact.

            There is no argument that god must have created this world because it is the highest good. It never was the highest good. And your handicapped excuse for it not being so relies on a literal interpretation of Genesis which is completely untenable.

          • OceanDeep2

            God's Will itself is a logical necessity but God exercising that Will in accordance with His Good Nature is contingent upon His Intellect, which itself is a logical necessity.

            God cannot do anything that is not logically compatible with His Nature. Since God is Good His creation would also be the highest good possible. Since we observe that the world is not the highest good possible then there must have been something that happened (not a literal interpretation of Genesis). Since God is Good He is reconciling this world to Himself through His Word (Jesus Christ).

            Unfortunately since you do not even believe in God this would obviously not make any sense, so maybe you should spend time talking about whether God exists or not rather than go deeper into theological grounds that have been debated for thousands of years.

          • God's Will itself is a logical necessity but God exercising that Will in accordance with His Good Nature is contingent upon His Intellect, which itself is a logical necessity.

            That makes no sense. First, go ahead and make a logical argument that shows god must have created this particular universe, and not one any different - even if different by a single atom, or one that had blue flamingos instead of pink ones. Second, if there are multiple logically possible things that god could will, his will can't be logically necessary.

            God cannot do anything that is not logically compatible with His Nature. Since God is Good His creation would also be the highest good possible. Since we observe that the world is not the highest good possible then there must have been something that happened (not a literal interpretation of Genesis). Since God is Good He is reconciling this world to Himself through His Word (Jesus Christ).

            You're trying to argue backwards. You need to first logically prove this world is (or was) the highest possible good before you're allowed to argue that something went wrong and that Jesus fixes that. You just jumped over a huge pit you haven't justified.

            Unfortunately since you do not even believe in God this would obviously not make any sense, so maybe you should spend time talking about whether God exists or not rather than go deeper into theological grounds that have been debated for thousands of years.

            Because I see a fatal flaw in the Thomistic logic that no one can resolve, and I intend to continually pressure then to acknowledge this and pick apart their attempts to avoid it.

        • Rob Abney

          Why do you consider His will to be part of His substance anyway?
          You said this,

          if god is identical to will, meaning, his will is his substance

          but Aquinas says this,

          For God does things because He wills so to do; yet the power to do them does not come from His will, but from His nature.

          You seem to be equating His will with His nature but Aquinas seems to say that His will is not his nature but an action of His nature.
          From that I would conclude that He can exist necessarily and still make contingent actions of His will without any need for brute facts.

          • Why do you consider His will to be part of His substance anyway?

            Because that's what Dennis Bonnett himself has said: "his will act is identical with his very substance".

            I can't be blamed if Thomists can't get their story straight.

            but Aquinas says this,

            For God does things because He wills so to do; yet the power to do them does not come from His will, but from His nature.

            You seem to be equating His will with His nature but Aquinas seems to say that His will is not his nature but an action of His nature.
            From that I would conclude that He can exist necessarily and still make contingent actions of His will without any need for brute facts.

            Let's say Dennis is incorrect, and god isn't identical to his will. I can ague both possibilities to show why neither will get you out of the problem.

            If god does things not from his will but his nature, then that implies that what he wills is a direct effect of his nature, meaning, his will logically entails from his nature. But you just spent time trying to show me that his will sometimes at least, doesn't entail logically from his nature. So I have to ask you, are there things that god wills that are not entailed by his nature?

            And if god's will is an action of his nature it still does absolutely nothing to explain why god eternally wills A and not B. Do you seriously think saying "His will is not his nature but an action of His nature," and this solves the problem? The entire problem arises once you agree that god's will is not entailed by his nature - meaning, you cannot make a case for the will's logical necessity.

          • Rob Abney

            So I have to ask you, are there things that god wills that are not entailed by his nature?

            No, but what He wills and we subsequently witness are the effects of His nature. If you have the ability to choose between a gift for yourself of 1 million dollars or 1 dollar, you would choose the million and we would all agree that that was the only logical choice but we couldn't validly say that it was your only choice. In the same way, God has willed the greatest good because it is His nature, so His will and His nature appear identical but as I posted earlier Aquinas explains why that is not the case.
            His existence is necessary, His actions though completely consistent with His necessary nature, are contingent.

          • Then Dennis is wrong. Again, it's not my problem that Thomists can't get their story straight. But I can refute all possibilities, so it's not really a problem for me. It just shows how weak the foundations of Thomism are.

            Now, to your point, saying that what we witness is the effects of his nature is incorrect. You just spent many lines telling me that his will is not a logical entailment of his nature. And that means his will has many logically possible possibilities. God could will A, B, C, D, E.....etc. If logic doesn't necessitate a particular choice, the brute fact problem will always weigh on your head.

            This is because the PSR argues that a thing's existence must either (A) have an explanation in itself (meaning it's logically necessary), or (B) be explained by something else (which will lead to either an infinite regress of contingent explanations or terminate in something else that is logically necessary). Since the logically necessary option is not available to you for (B) -- since god's will is not logically entailed from his nature -- neither option is good for the theist.

            You are left with an infinite regress of contingent explanations for god's will, or a brute fact.

            Is this beginning to sink in yet?

          • Rob Abney

            God could will A, B, C, D, E.....etc. If logic doesn't necessitate a particular choice, the brute fact problem will always weigh on your head.

            You didn't address my example of choosing one million dollars rather than one dollar. The PSR is satisfied because your choice is a free choice by you of either option; it makes economic sense to choose the larger amount but it is not the only logical choice and since you could choose the smaller amount then the choice was contingent.
            God's will continues to be free and contingent and it doesn't affect His necessary existence.

          • Your example is irrelevant (and inaccurate) since there is no logical necessity or me choosing the one million vs one dollar and we've already established that. Furthermore the analogy is flawed. God doesn't have two choices. He has millions, billions, perhaps an infinite amount. It would more accurately be like the equivalent of me having the option of one million dollars, one million dollars and one cent, one million dollars and two cents,... and so on up and down from zero to infinity. Any one I choose will not be logically necessary, and we'd always be able to ask why that choice and not one with one cent more or less. You will have to terminate in a brute fact eventually if I keep asking "Why?" questions.

            And there are options to god that are morally equivalent two one another, yet are different. For example, god could have eternally willed a universe where flamingos are blue instead of pink. No one would be better than the other. Or god could have eternally willed a universe where there is one extra atom than this one. Again, no one would be better than the other.

            So your example completely and utterly fails to address the problem you're in. You are left with an infinite regress of contingent explanations for god's will, or a brute fact. Those are your only two options once you admit god's will is not logically necessary.

            And god's will cannot be free if there is no ontological possibility of it having been different. Sorry to break that to you. But this is a whole other point.

          • Rob Abney

            there is no logical necessity for me choosing the one million vs one dollar

            That was the point of the example, it's a mutable choice not a choice of necessity.

            It would more accurately be like the equivalent of me having the option of one million dollars, one million dollars and one cent, one million dollars and two cents,... and so on up and down from zero to infinity. Any one I choose will not be logically necessary,

            Right, the choice you make isn't a necessity it is contingent and it has a reason - you!, but why would you choose any amount other than the largest amount?

            god could have eternally willed a universe where flamingos are blue instead of pink. No one would be better than the other

            The ecosystem would be disturbed, there would be more shrimp, and flamingos would probably be plant eaters.

          • That was the point of the example, it's a mutable choice not a choice of necessity.

            The whole dilemma arises once you admit god's choices are not all necessary.

            Right, the choice you make isn't a necessity it is contingent and it has a reason - you!, but why would you choose any amount other than the largest amount?

            There is no largest amount; numbers are infinite. Remember I corrected your analogy to make it more accurate. And the reasons why I do anything in reality come down to physical processes in my brain that are determined. And those determined processes ultimately terminate in a brute fact. Why I want A rather than B is part of a causal chain. But there is no necessary reason why I want A than B, and a brute fact is inevitable. And supposed we deny this and claim I have true libertarian free will. Then my will cannot have a cause, and it must be uncaused, and you cannot have control over something uncaused by definition. It would have to be random and without an explanation.

            The ecosystem would be disturbed, there would be more shrimp, and flamingos would probably be plant eaters.

            That wouldn't make it better or worse even if true, which it isn't. God could also will flamingos to be blue and make it so those things don't happen since he's all powerful (supposedly). And you only addressed one aspect of my points. Are you too afraid to answer the others? What about a universe with one extra atom? It would not be better or worse.

          • Rob Abney

            Numbers are infinite but dollars are finite, so there is a largest amount. But you are correct in proposing that God had an infinite number to choose from, but it seems like an infinite being should have infinite choices.

            But, I don't understand how you can discuss God's will if you don't believe that will exists. If you believe it is a determinate physical process then how would God have a will since He has no physical attributes?

            Just for fun, one less atom in the world could make a big difference if it were missing from one of your genes, you might be The Tinker rather than The Thinker.

          • If god has an infinite number of logically possible universes to chose from, many of which are no better or worse morally, then why did god choose universe number 238947298472942394872948273498273 and not universe number 937098023741092310378 or 8731238 or 091823091301983109283? Saying god freely willed universe number 238947298472942394872948273498273 explains nothing, since now the question becomes why? And I can keep asking why until you hit a brute fact, because logical necessity is not an option.

            I believe in will, I don't believe in free will. Free will is false even in the absence of materialism. It is logically incoherent.

            One less atom in my genes would make no different in me since genes are made of billions of atoms and they are constantly gaining and losing atoms every second. C'mon Rob, you can do way better than this.

          • Rob Abney

            And I can keep asking why until you hit a brute fact, because logical necessity is not an option.

            But to ask why? is to ask the wrong question, a sufficient reason in this case is found when the question who? is asked. You can then ask Him why but we cannot know His reason only that He is the reason.

            I believe in will, I don't believe in free will

            my will cannot have a cause, and it must be uncaused, and you cannot have control over something uncaused

            Here's Aquinas' answer to the existence of will:

            This aptitude to good in things without knowledge is called natural appetite. Whence also intellectual natures have a like aptitude as apprehended through its intelligible form; so as to rest therein when possessed, and when not possessed to seek to possess it, both of which pertain to the will. Hence in every intellectual being there is will, just as in every sensible being there is animal appetite. And so there must be will in God, since there is intellect in Him. And as His intellect is His own existence, so is His will.

            Here's how one atom out of billions can change you

            A common type of epigenomic modification is called methylation. Methylation involves attaching small molecules called methyl groups, each consisting of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms, to segments of DNA. When methyl groups are added to a particular gene, that gene is turned off or silenced, and no protein is produced from that gene.

            Because errors in the epigenetic process, such as modifying the wrong gene or failing to add a compound to a gene, can lead to abnormal gene activity or inactivity, they can cause genetic disorders. Conditions including cancers, metabolic disorders, and degenerative disorders have all been found to be related to epigenetic errors.

            https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/howgeneswork/epigenome

          • But to ask why? is to ask the wrong question, a sufficient reason in this case is found when the question who? is asked. You can then ask Him why but we cannot know His reason only that He is the reason.

            The problem is more than merely not knowing why god eternally "chose" A rather than B. If it isn't a logically necessary choice (and every Thomist agrees it isn't), then you face a dilemma. It will have to be a contingent explanation, and there are only two routes that can go: an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or a brute fact. So merely not knowing why A and not B is not the problem, it's that no matter what the explanation is, since it isn't logically necessary, you will hit that dilemma eventually.

            Do you get it now? Or are you still struggling to see this?

            Here's Aquinas' answer to the existence of will:

            All Aquinas is reaffirming here is that god is his will, and that strengthens my argument since god with will A is a different god than god with will B. It's god A vs god B - both as equally likely as the other, ie, if god A necessarily exists, so does god B necessarily exist. And god C,D,E,F, ....etc.

            Here's how one atom out of billions can change you

            Irrelevant. The extra atom could be out in space where no one would notice it. And secondly, this involves groups of molecules, and one single atom difference in one of them would make no difference.

          • Richard Morley

            The ecosystem would be disturbed, there would be more shrimp, and flamingos would probably be plant eaters.

            Umm.. the ecosystem wouldn't be 'disturbed', as it would always have been like that, there is no reason why blue flamingos would be less effective at catching shrimp (if anything they would be better camouflaged), and flamingos are plant eaters.

            If you are going to play with my absurd examples, please treat them respectfully.

          • Rob Abney

            Flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp, I dont know what they're diet would be to cause them to be blue but it couldn't be primarily shrimp.
            If you see God as a magician then you can say that He could snap His fingers and make Flamingos blue without changing anything else but if you understand God as the first mover and first cause Who works through secondary causes then its obvious that many parts of the ecosystem would change if one part changed so dramatically. Evolutionists would agree, climate change proponents would agree also.

          • Richard Morley

            Flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp, I dont know what they're diet would be to cause them to be blue but it couldn't be primarily shrimp.

            They could eat blue shrimp (and other crustaceans and algae) or they could naturally produce blue pigment and not express canthaxanthin in their feathers, or canthaxanthin could be blue in this alternate universe. You seem not to have thought this through.

            Likewise no part of the ecosystem would 'change' or be disrupted, as we would not be suddenly imposing blue flamingos on a world identical to ours up until that moment in time, we are hypothesizing a universe that is subtly different from ours and always has been. The ecosystem would be adjusted to its reality. Exactly how the universe differs does not matter.

            Now if you are asserting that the universe cannot be different from how it is now, including the null hypothesis of it not existing at all, that is the same as calling it necessary. QED.

      • Richard Morley

        I don't see how 5 and 6 are valid. Why would the theist have to say that our particular universe was logically necessary

        There have been a number of attempts to explain this in this thread. Some (of mine at least) have evaporated into the mysterious Disqus world of "Detected as spam: Thanks, we'll work on getting this corrected” but you will still find many up there.

        One more attempt to paraphrase, lifted from my latest to post to evaporate into Disqus limbo:

        For God to exist necessarily, that necessity must define him precisely. It must be logically impossible for him to exist in any way differently, or to not exist at all. If there is any logically possible variation, however trivial seeming, that still supports the argument for its necessity, then each and every possible variation would ‘exist necessarily’ as much as any other.

        So:
        -- no one potential God would be truly necessary in its own right (if the existence of any one would satisfy the argument) or all would exist.
        -- asserting that this one 'must' exist because we see it does exist is indeed to assert a brute fact. You are using 'necessary' in the sense that "given other facts (the observation of this universe) we can deduce A (the existence of this God) is true".

        For a timeless, necessary, non contingent creator of all this precise definition would include every act leading from its existence. There is no way to inject randomness or non determinism into the model without appealing to something outside of and independent of God or forsaking the PSR.

        • Rob Abney

          For God to exist necessarily, that necessity must define him precisely

          You have combined the definition of existence with the definition of essence. Existence answers the question "is it?", essence answers the question "what is it?"

          • Richard Morley

            You have combined the definition of existence with the definition of essence.

            No I haven't. I go on to explain why this assertion is true, it doesn't stand on its own.

            But since you raise this point, many A-T proponents, including Dr Bonnette, do assert that in God his essence and existence are identical. Is this relevant?

          • Rob Abney

            God's essence is to exist. Saying that His essence and existence are identical doesn't mean that there is not two different concepts. How about identical twins, do you agree that they're identical and yet two different people?

          • Richard Morley

            Saying that His essence and existence are identical doesn't mean that there is not two different concepts.

            I didn't say that there are not. As I pointed out in the post to which you are reacting, if not exactly responding.

            Is this relevant?

            How about identical twins, do you agree that they're identical and yet two different people?

            'Identical' twins are not literally identical. As evidenced by the fact that we can differentiate between them. It is people like Dr Bonnette who have asserted that God's existence and essence are identical, so you should probably take it up with him. I think I see what they mean, and rather agree, but I would phrase it differently.

            Now if the 'necessity' that is used to justify God's existence does not justify why God 'chooses' A rather than B, then that choice is not satisfactorily explained as regards the PSR. So we still need a justification as to why God 'chooses' (and therefore is) one way rather than another.

            To say that "he just does", or that "we observe that he does so no further explanation is required", or that "it is God's free will" is indeed to assert a brute fact and forsake the PSR.

          • Rob Abney

            Now if the 'necessity' that is used to justify God's existence does not justify why God 'chooses' A rather than B, then that choice is not satisfactorily explained as regards the PSR.

            Maybe you've already done so but please explain why the PSR is not justified by the existence of God (even if you don't accept His existence) and that it could only be justified by knowing God's reasons for taking the action He did. That seems like a desire to know not just the sufficient reason but the exhaustive reason.

            How do you know so much about flamingos anyway?

          • Richard Morley

            I am not quite sure what you are asking here.

            The PSR itself is not 'justified' by the existence of God in any meaningful sense that I can see. If you mean to ask why God's 'choice' is not justified by God's existence that is simple logic. God's existence does nothing to explain why he causes this universe to exist rather than any other or none at all, unless his very nature and the argument from necessity that makes it logically impossible for him to not exist or to exist otherwise also covers the universe. In which case the universe is necessary, so while the PSR is satisfied the stereotypical AT argument has contradicted its postulates.

            We don't need to know what exactly caused this universe rather than any other, we just know from the PSR that there is a reason. From that we can draw conclusions.

            Flamingos are not hard to research.

          • Rob Abney

            God's existence does nothing to explain why he causes this universe to exist rather than any other or none at all

            You and I are in agreement on this point.

            unless his very nature and the argument from necessity that makes it logically impossible for him to not exist or to exist otherwise also covers the universe

            I think that we agree that God's necessity doesn't cover the universe.

            stereotypical AT argument has contradicted its postulates

            It hasn't unless you insist that God's necessary existence includes His will, but Aquinas explains that His will and His existence are distinct even though they are identical!

            We don't need to know what exactly caused this universe rather than any other, we just know from the PSR that there is a reason. From that we can draw conclusions.

            Completely agree!

          • Aquinas explains that His will and His existence are distinct even though they are identical!

            And that makes sense to you?

          • Rob Abney

            Does this help?

            while truth, goodness, wisdom, holiness and other attributes, as we conceive and define them express perfections that are formally distinct, yet as applied to God they are all ultimately identical in meaning and describe the same ultimate reality — the one infinitely perfect and simple being.

          • Richard Morley

            (My previous answer was marked as spam again, so second try)

            I think that we agree that God's necessity doesn't cover the universe.

            Actually what I said was that the PSR combined with the assertion that God exists logically necessarily, that it is logically impossible for him to not exist or to exist otherwise, does in fact lead to the conclusion that the universe is necessary, contradicting the starting postulates of the A-T argument.

            It is simply not possible to get from a single necessary non contingent God who is the source of everything else to anything that is 'not necessary' without violating the PSR.

            Take
            1) the PSR: there can be no fact real or existing, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason why it should be so and not otherwise, although these reasons usually cannot be known by us.
            2) a logically necessary God, one whose existence can in principle be deduced from the laws of logic and nothing else (even if we ourselves cannot see how), not even relying on the existence of the reasoner. He cannot exist otherwise or not exist at all without leading to paradox.

            According to (1), if God causes A (the universe, for example, or any other 'choice' attributed to God), God is the reason why A can exist. If A is the only choice, he also explains why A does exist, no problem, except that that implies that A is also necessary. God->A, so a sufficiently intelligent reasoner could deduce God, his nature, and A from the laws of logic and nothing else.

            But if you assert that God could have caused any one of A,B,C, D... equally, then there must be sufficient reason why A was chosen, according to the PSR. For a finite non necessary contingent entity like Plato that can be external factors, so if he chooses to order latte but 'could have' ordered ouzo, that is fine.

            But God cannot be influence by external factors because there are none except those that emanate from him.

            So the reason can only be God. But if God is sufficient reason for A to be chosen and not B, C, D... and God is necessary that means that B C D and so on were never truly possible and A is necessary. Again, a sufficiently intelligent reasoner could deduce God, his nature, and A from the laws of logic and nothing else.

            Trying to assert that God 'could' imply one of A,B,C, D... equally and equally be 'sufficient reason' for him to choose any one rather than the others is incoherent and effectively an obfuscated way of denying the PSR. Likewise trying to sweep a denial of the PSR under the label of 'free will' or whatever is still a denial of the PSR.

          • Rob Abney

            unless there be a sufficient reason why it should be so and not otherwise...He cannot exist otherwise or not exist at all without leading to paradox.

            You've added a qualifier that is not required by the PSR.

            If A is the only choice, he also explains why A does exist, no problem, except that that implies that A is also necessary

            How can you support that A could be the only choice, of course it would be necessary if it were the "only choice" that implies "no choice".

            For a finite non necessary contingent entity like Plato that can be external factors, so if he chooses to order latte but 'could have' ordered ouzo, that is fine. .... trying to sweep a denial of the PSR under the label of 'free will' or whatever is still a denial of the PSR

            Why would Plato who is only an image of God have abilities that God gave him but God not have those abilities Himself. That is not a theological statement, for God to satisfy the PSR He must have the attributes that Aquinas goes on to detail through the first part of the Summa Theologica.

          • Richard Morley

            You've added a qualifier that is not required by the PSR.

            Nope, that is the PSR as originally proposed by Leibniz in the Monadologie. Only in french: "nous considérons qu’aucun fait ne saurait se trouver vrai, ou existant, aucune énonciation véritable, sans qu’il y ait une raison suffisante pourquoi il en soit ainsi et non pas autrement"

            Emphasis added by me precisely to anticipate the kind of objection you make: various theists have indeed tried to pare down the PSR to something that allegedly supports the cosmological argument(s) but still allows God to make non deterministic 'choices' or 'acts'.

            But even excising the bolded portion is not enough - the more complete statement not just that "the universe exists", but that "the universe exists this way and not another", would still be true and demand a reason from the PSR. The bolded part just encourages the rigorous philosopher to ensure that the proposition under investigation is complete. It clarifies the full import of the rest of the sentence, it doesn't add to it.

            To get what you want you are truly the one who needs to add a condition along the lines of: every fact or proposition that is true requires a sufficient reason why that is so except for why a cause produces one of many possible effects.

            If you are honest with yourself, the full version is indeed what we instinctively believe - if we observe an event we don't just expect that there is a cause, but that that cause explains why we observe this effect. If you are brutally honest with yourself, it is clear that such attempts to pare down the PSR are a response to not liking the conclusions drawn from what at first seems self evident. But that is not honest philosophical inquiry, going where the argument and evidence leads you, it is sophistry, adjusting the premises to achieve the conclusion you want.

            Why would Plato who is only an image of God have abilities that God gave him but God not have those abilities Himself.

            Umm.. the 'ability' you refer to here is that of being influenced by outside sources. Being contingent. So you are trying to argue that God is contingent????

            But yes, Plato can do things 'God' as posited cannot. Change for example, or be wrong or evil. Or travel from Athens to Cardiff.

          • Rob Abney

            Thanks for the ongoing discussion.

            The bolded part just encourages the rigorous philosopher to ensure that the proposition under investigation is complete. It clarifies the full import of the rest of the sentence, it doesn't add to it.

            It does add to it, it adds the principle of non-contradiction to it.
            From wikipedia: Hamilton 1860:67" In modern times, the attention of philosophers was called to this law of Leibnitz, who, on the two principles of Reason and of Contradiction, founded the whole edifice of his philosophy.

            I don't like being accused of not being rigorous or honest with myself, so I follow and try to understand the reasoning of Aquinas, here is how my understanding of God's free choices is supported. Unfortunately I cannot summarize it in plain English.

            From the Summa Contra Gentiles Chapter 81 THAT GOD DOES NOT WILL OTHER THINGS IN A NECESSARY WAY:

            [4] Moreover, God, in willing His own goodness, wills things other than Himself to be in so far as they participate in His goodness. But, since the divine goodness is infinite, it can be participated in infinite ways, and in ways other than it is participated in by the creatures that now exist. if, then, as a result of willing His own goodness, God necessarily willed the things that participate in it, it would follow that He would will the existence of an infinity of creatures participating in His goodness in an infinity of ways. This is patently false, because, if He willed them, they would be, since His will is the principle of being for things, as will be shown later on. Therefore, God does not necessarily will even the things that now exist.

            [7] We must therefore consider why it is that God necessarily knows things other than Himself, but does not necessarily will them, even though from the fact that He understands and wills Himself He understands and wills other things. The reason is as follows. That he who understands should understand something arises from the fact that he is disposed in a certain way, since something is understood in act in so far as its likeness is in the one understanding. But that he who wills should will something arises from the fact that what is willed is disposed in a certain way. For we will something either because it is the end or because it is ordered to the end. Now, that all things be in God, so that they can be understood in Him, is necessarily required by the divine perfection; but the divine goodness does not necessarily require that other things exist, which are ordered to it as to the end. That is why it is necessary that God know other things, but not necessary that He will them. Hence, neither does God will all the things that can have an order to His goodness; but He knows all things that have any order whatever to His essence, by which He understands.

          • Richard Morley

            Previous reply, again, evaporated as spam, ironically given what is currently at the top of the thread. So I'll try a truncated version:

            It does add to it, it adds the principle of non-contradiction to it.

            No, the principle of non-contradiction is quite different. There is nothing per se contradictory about saying that A and B were both possibilities, so B could have been true, but that A is in actuality true in its place. The PSR just says that if X could imply A or B, then it is only sufficient reason for why (A or B) is true, and we still need sufficient reason to explain why A and not B (or, vice versa, B and not A) is true.

            This is only clarified by the bolded text, but as I pointed out, it could be deduced even without that text just by applying the truncated PSR (without the bolded text) to the statement "A is true rather than B".

            In any case, it is a matter of historical fact that Leibniz coined the term 'Principle of Sufficient Reason' and that is how he phrased it. QED

            I don't like being accused of not being rigorous or honest with myself,

            Well, I am truly sorry if you took it that way, but I assure you that no personal attack was intended. The section about being honest with oneself is clearer but terribly pompous if one replaces 'you' with 'one'. I stand by the sense of what I said, however.

          • Rob Abney

            Well, I am truly sorry if you took it that way, but I assure you that no personal attack was intended. The section about being honest with oneself is clearer but terribly pompous if one replaces 'you' with 'one'. I stand by the sense of what I said, however.

            I didn't need an apology, I was responding to the "sense" of what you said but to then go ahead and refer to me as pompous certainly reduces the sincerity of the apology.
            If Leibniz formulated the PSR as you are presenting it why is his response limited to a sufficient reason but doesn't include additional explanation for why it doesn't exist in another fashion in the following quote from wikipedia, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz wrote: "Why is there something rather than nothing? The sufficient reason [...] is found in a substance which [...] is a necessary being bearing the reason for its existence within itself."

            Do you consider the following from wikipedia page of Monadology to support your position or the shorter version that I prefer?

            Metaphysical optimism, through the principle of sufficient reason, developed as follows:
            a) Everything exists according to a reason (by the axiom "Nothing arises from nothing");
            b) Everything which exists has a sufficient reason to exist;
            c) Everything which exists is better than anything nonexistent (by the first point: since it is more rational, it also has more reality), and, consequently, it is the best possible being in the best of all possible worlds (by the axiom: "That which contains more reality is better than that which contains less reality").

          • Richard Morley

            ??
            I wrote that bit, not you, and I didn't even write the version that I described as being pompous.

            But if you are that absolutely determined, I cannot prevent you from taking offence, and I certainly cannot force you to accept an apology.

            Nor did you respond to the sense of what I wrote. If we observe that throwing a switch sometimes causes one light to turn on, sometimes another, sometimes both or neither, then we look for a reason. Maybe there are other switches, or the bulbs or wiring are faulty, or the switch actually rings a bell causing people who hear it to turn on the lights iff it is dark to try to find the bally thing.

            We don't just shrug and say that the switch is sufficient reason for one bulb or the other or both or neither to turn on.

            If Leibniz formulated the PSR as you are presenting it...

            There is no 'if' about it, the Monadologie is available in full online, for free, both in the original and in translation, so feel free to check for yourself.

            Note that were I to make such a reply to you, you would no doubt be claiming insult at the implied lie.

            ...in the following quote from wikipedia...

            ...the following from wikipedia page of Monadology...

            I think I may see the problem. Wikipedia is great for quick and dirty check ups or finding a good place to start research, but you really can't do philosophy from it.

            Likewise, if you don't understand an argument well enough to express it yourself, in your own words, you cannot really lean on it in a debate.

          • Rob Abney

            Actually, I am not taking offense to any of your comments, I'll avoid commenting on those aspects of our discussion.

            I will look for the Leibniz book online.

            If we observe that throwing a switch sometimes causes one light to turn on, sometimes another, sometimes both or neither, then we look for a reason. Maybe there are other switches, or the bulbs or wiring are faulty, or the switch actually rings a bell causing people who hear it to turn on the lights iff it is dark to try to find the bally thing.

            Each of those could be a sufficient reason for the lights to be turned on although each could also be erroneous. But each seems as though it would satisfy the PSR without saying there is no other reason.

  • Today, certain lines of attack against classical proofs for God’s existence, such as St. Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways, seek to undermine foundational metaphysical first principles such as causality, sufficient reason, or even non-contradiction.

    I get it that you’re not attributing any of these particular attacks to all atheists. However, my own objections to Aquinas’s arguments concern his dependence on Aristotle’s metaphysics, including the three principles you have singled out for special attention. Whether my disagreement with Aristotle should be characterized as an attack on anybody’s theology depends, I think, on what a reasonable person may believe about my motivations for expressing my disagreement.

    Such attacks employ, for example, claims that (1) David Hume’s critique of causality is definitive, (2) the existence of the cosmos is simply a “brute fact,” needing no explanation, and (3) modern physics shows that the principle of non-contradiction is routinely violated at the submicroscopic level.

    As for (3), for the sake of brevity I’ll just stipulate that there can be no violation of non-contradiction and forgo comment on whether modern physics says there is one, except: If it does say so, then it’s wrong. That leaves (1) and (2) for us to discuss.

    Hume’s notion simply is not the classical metaphysical understanding of causality. In classical metaphysics, if a being or event lacks a sufficient reason for its existence or coming-to-be within itself, then some extrinsic agent must be posited to account for what is lacking in self-explanation. That extrinsic agent is called a cause. Attacking a “causality” that is simply not the one being used by classical metaphysicians in no way furthers the argument of atheists.

    What furthers our argument depends on the theists with whom we’re arguing. I agree that many atheists, probably most, are clueless about the differences between classical theism and the theism most of us encounter on Internet apologetic websites.

    But if I’m debating with a classical theist, then it is legitimate for me to dispute “the classical metaphysical understanding of causality,” though obviously, I’d better have more to say about it than “Hume was right.” At the same time, the classical theist had better have more to say about it than “Aristotle was right.” If all we’re both going to do is appeal to our philosophical authorities, then the debate will go nowhere.

    Atheist Kai Nielsen writes, “It is certainly very natural to reject the principle of sufficient reason and to say that it has not been established that there must be … an explanation for everything.”3 The practical problem with Nielsen’s move is that we then have no way of knowing when anything at all needs an explanation.

    That does not follow. What does follow from “Possibly, at least one A is not B” is “Possibly, no A is B.” But an atheist might argue thus: “All A is B unless A is also C, and there is at most one A that is also C, and here is how we know which A that is.”

    Attacking metaphysical first principles, modern atheists and agnostics reject the foundational insights of any proof for God’s existence.

    Yes, we do. And therefore, what? To argue that those insights must be true because we need them to prove God’s existence begs the question of God’s existence in a pretty obvious way.

    The natural metaphysics of human intelligence seeks to understand the created world in terms of the intelligibility of finite being.

    What “natural metaphysics”? Sticking the label “natural” on any philosophical concept does not validate it.

    In attempting to grasp the “why” of finite phenomena, proofs for God’s existence arise naturally, since the mind of man rightly suspects that the things of this world do not fully explain themselves, and thus, need extrinsic explanation.

    As best I can construe this, it is simply an appeal to intuition. Not even Aristotle, so far as I know, ever claimed any infallibility for human intuition.

    The ultimate irony lies in skeptics attacking first principles used in such proofs, when these same atheists and agnostics necessarily use these same principles themselves in everything they say and do.

    Show me which atheists actually do that, and demonstrate precisely how they are doing it, and I will agree that they are contradicting themselves. But I have seen, in the Christian apologetic literature, plenty of allegations of self-contradiction by atheists that just aren’t true.

    Philosophical claims require adequate reasons for their truth. They do not stand of themselves.

    That depends on how you’re defining “adequate reason.” Some philosophical claims have to be assumed. That means we can’t prove them, and this raises the question of what might constitute an adequate reason for assuming a philosophical claim. If your reason for assuming a claim seems inadequate to me, then I just might be justified in rejecting that assumption.

    As to the need for reasons or causes, anyone making a philosophical claim must give reasons for his claim.

    A reason is not the same thing as a cause, at least as I understand causation. If I argue “A therefore B,” I am not necessarily claiming that A causes B, even if it happens to be the case that my believing A causes me to believe B.

    David Hume, the philosopher most famous for attacking the principle of causality

    He didn’t attack causality. He attacked the Aristotelian perception of causality and offered an alternative.

    In a word, the principles of non-contradiction, sufficient reason, and causality are all presupposed by those atheists or agnostics attacking their application in the proofs for God’s existence.

    OK, so you’re saying some atheists do that, and if I’m not one of those atheists, and then you’re not talking to me. Very well, but you’re also not answering the question “Are Metaphysical First Principles Universally True?”

    If the laws of thought do not reflect the actual laws of being, then the mind becomes utterly useless as an instrument with which to know the real.

    I have no idea what you might mean by either “laws of thought” or “laws of being.” Maybe I would know if I had studied more of Aristotle’s work. In any case, I reject the implication that on my naturalistic non-Aristotelian worldview, the mind is “utterly useless as an instrument with which to know the real.”

    Consider again the basic truth that from nothing, nothing comes to be. Does anyone genuinely doubt its validity once we remove the false concept of “nothingness” proposed by Quantum Mechanics?

    I’m prepared to stipulate it. And if it is true, then I would infer that the universe has always existed. But if it is has always existed, then the question of where it came from—i.e. what caused it—is meaningless. Asking about the cause of something that was never nonexistent is like asking what might be north of the north pole.

    the human intellect is designed to “see” being with perfect certitude

    I don’t think so. It does seem to be designed (by natural selection) to crave perfect certitude, but there is no necessary connection between what we crave and what we can have.

    Were it otherwise, all the logic in the world could never assure us of any knowledge of reality whatsoever.

    And it doesn’t. I know that lots of people think it does, but they’re mistaken. That isn’t what logic is for.

    Biological explanations alone do not actually explain sensory experience.

    You say so. I have seen no cogent argument for this conclusion.

    Nor is there another system of philosophy or method of natural science that escapes the basic truths stated above, since every system or method asserts claims in absolute terms and must give reasons for its claims.

    Every system makes assertions and must justify those assertions. You have not demonstrated that this cannot happen with any system other than yours—unless, that is, by “absolute” you mean “infallible.” I agree that my worldview is not infallible, but I don’t agree that anybody else’s is.

    Following the principle of non-contradiction, either the intellect is a trustworthy cognitive power or it is not.

    Yep. And that is true whether you define “trustworthy” in terms of infallibility or in some sense that makes allowances for the normal range of human cognitive imperfections.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      While your inordinately lengthy diatribe has fought a multitude of battles on behalf of atheism against theism and about various historical positions and understandings of terms, it has not addressed the central claim of my article, which is simply that the metaphysical first principles are universally true.

      The one statement that you express to which I want you to give absolute attention is the following:

      “Every system makes assertions and must justify those
      assertions.”

      In this simple statement you have implicitly affirmed the truth of my thesis -- that the first principles are true and employed even by atheists.

      If you actually read my arguments carefully, you would realize that by saying that “every system makes assertions,” you are implicitly affirming the principle of non-contradiction. That is no problem for you, since I believe you explicitly affirmed it in your post.

      But you also say that every system “… must justify those assertions.” As my piece clearly argues, this implies that reasons must be given for the assertions, which validates both the principle of sufficient reason and the classical understanding of causality.

      It isn’t a question of whether anyone gets the reasons right, It is simply the fact that there must be reasons, which is why even you admit that we “must justify those assertions.”

      Since you say you know the classical meaning of causality, you must know it is simply the subdivision of sufficient reason that applies to cases in which a being is not its own sufficient reason and thereby requires an extrinsic sufficient reason, or, what we call a cause.

      Thus, you have implicitly affirmed all the metaphysical first principles that I was defending. That is all the OP is about. The rest of your disputes may be of interest to you, but frankly, they are not to me as long as the basic thesis I was proposing remains intact.

  • "Today, certain lines of attack against classical proofs for God’s
    existence, such as St. Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways, seek to undermine
    foundational metaphysical first principles such as causality, sufficient
    reason, or even non-contradiction."

    It may be that some atheists do this. But there is no need to deny these principles to attack the five ways.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Your last sentence is obvious to anyone who knows the history of these proofs.

      • I would have thought so, hence the confusion on the need for your OP.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The need for the OP is that some people do deny the universal validity of metaphysical first principles, as evinced by the continuous attacks on my defense of them.

          • would you say PSR is on the same level as the other two principles among philosophers? Stanford says it is controversial.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since virtually no one in his right mind would deny the principle of non-contradiction or identity, I guess sufficient reason is more controversial.

            Still, as I noted in the OP, when dealing with the proofs for God, most skeptics tend to argue that finite nature explains itself, so that there is no need for a transcendent God. Certainly, David Hume makes that case, and even St. Thomas Aquinas raises that as one of the two objections to the Five Ways. Thus, proving God’s existence becomes largely a matter of showing that nature alone cannot explain itself.

            On the other hand, some skeptics propose the more radical move of simply denying that finite nature needs any explanation at all, which is done by attacking the principle of sufficient reason. That is why there is so much debate on this thread about whether or not a brute fact exists, which I am told means “a fact for which there is no reason.”

            If there exists a single brute fact for which there is no reason, the principle of sufficient reason fails. It is not universally true. (I have shown elsewhere why I do not accept the claim for a brute fact in the matter of God’s free creation of the world.)

            The problem with proposing this “brute fact” move is that, in making its case against the PSR, it implies more than its proponents may really wish to achieve. If you have a universal principle with a single exception, it is no longer a universal principle. If it can fail once, it can fail an indeterminate number of times.

            While those who deny the PSR may fervently wish to maintain that the use of rationality and science can sustain its applicability throughout most of the rest of nature and experience, the plain fact is that, once you have broken its universal truth, one does not get to pick and choose where it will allegedly still apply. Once a rule is shown not to hold, it is no longer universal – with all that that entails. You have no further way of knowing when it will apply and when it won’t, since you have essentially proven that it is not true at all.

            In that hypothetical case, “NOT every being has a reason,” is the new “truth.” Worse yet, while you may find some reasons for some things, there now is no a priori reason to expect any reason for any given fact or thing. All necessary “reason” to demand a “reason” for anything is gone forever.

            If the PSR is simply not true, the order of nature is illusory and science is merely a word game. If facts and beings need no sufficient reason, then the following become real physical possibilities: (1) something begins to be from absolutely nothing, (2) something ceases to be at any time for no reason at all, (3) properties of things can appear and disappear for no reason at all, (4) something performs operations, while having no particular nature related to them and no special conditions to elicit them.

            If any of the above were real possibilities, natural science would be impossible.

            Those atheists who think that modern science offers the most certain path to truth would do well not to claim the existence of brute facts in order to disprove the metaphysical principle of sufficient reason.

            Recall, though, that I still insist that there are other ways to defend the PSR as indicated in the OP.

          • I'm asking you as an experienced though retired philosopher, what your colleagues would say about the acceptance of PSR? You clearly disagree with Kai Nielsen but he doesn't seem to have been a radical outlier. I'm just trying to get a sense of how this principle is understood in professional philosophical circles.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Because you ask a polite question, I am going to try to give you as honest and complete an answer as possible, given the limitations of this format.

            If someone else wants to comment on my response to you, I am going to ignore them, since my reply to you is not designed to be “debate proof,” but rather open and unguarded so as to completely answer you. Moreover, I have to get on with other matters and cannot spend more time on this thread.

            When you ask what my colleagues would say, I don’t know what to tell you, since I retired in 2003 and my department’s faculty is completely different! What I can tell you, though, are some of my own reflections on the field in general and my own experiences in particular. The problem is that I would rather have a couple hours of direct conversation with you, which is impossible.

            First, let me tell you an experience I had when I first started teaching. I had just left Notre Dame, where some faculty were saying that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century. When I attended a conference of many scholars from all around San Diego that fall (1963), I was shocked to find out that the people there had never heard of him!

            This reflects badly on both faculties: the one for overestimating the impact of Chardin; the other for not even having heard of him. But it underlines something often overlooked – the insularity of one’s educational experience. Largely, today, in the United States, the dominant secular university philosophy is various strains of linguistic analysis, which is based in a scientific materialistic worldview. (I won’t battle anyone over definitions here.) The other view is found largely in the private, Catholic colleges, which were primarily grounded in Thomism, but which in more recent years has been shifting to various forms of historicism and pluralism (as far as I can tell).

            My own education was initially Thomistic, but when I got to Notre Dame, I found the “zoo syndrome:” a pluralism of every major variety – which was a good background to face the increasingly pluralistic views found today.

            I can see that this will be much longer than I hoped, but regarding the PSR, one has to realize that it all depends on who you are talking to. The Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition stretches from the early Greeks to Aquinas and even then up to the neo-Thomism of the present day. Most secular scholars are “bred” in the modern tradition beginning with Descartes, but leading today to the secular positivism I described above.

            The main point to remember is that insularity arises from the tradition/school that one is educated in. One can appear vastly “educated,” but, as in the example I noted above with Chardin, utterly ignorant of what is really being said by an opposing tradition. You have to be educated within that tradition to really understand it.

            So, if you look up the PSR on the internet, you will find it mostly defined in terms of modern philosophers, starting with Spinoza and Leibniz. It will be parsed into a dozen formulations expressed in arguments based in linguistic analysis and the Peano-Russell notation. Endless debates are had between its various formulation’s proponents and detractors. It does not appear rigorous in itself at all, with great emphasis on finding “brute facts” that instantly destroy its validity.

            On the other hand, while it was never formulated as starkly as by Leibniz, the classical metaphysical tradition from the Greeks to the high medievalists generally adopted a realistic epistemology in which the first principles were accepted as the only rational guidelines possible with which to develop a coherent philosophy. Modern philosophers vastly underestimate the validity of the insights of this classical tradition whose pinnacle was St. Thomas Aquinas, simply because they are not educated within that tradition – and have become accustomed to scoff at anything they view as so “archaic and naïve.”

            One final point, since length weighs upon me: The dividing line between these major traditions is mainly in Descartes. Descartes moved us firmly from epistemological realism into idealism with his famed Cogito. For him, what we know primarily is ideas, not extramental things. The whole development of philosophy after that was conditioned by the radical split he introduced also between mind and body, a split that was never healed in modern thought. Thus, by the time the PSR appears in Spinoza and Leibniz, it is couched in concepts conditioned by idealism and bears limited resemblance to its understanding in the hands of an existential Aristotelian, such as Aquinas.

            Small wonder it is now “controversial!”

            The realist epistemology of Thomism I do not find naïve. For Thomists, Descartes made a fatal error. What we know first and foremost is extramental things. We know a raging lion attacking us, and cannot doubt its reality when being so attacked. But when we reflect on a “raging lion” at this moment, we have as our noetic object, not an actual lion, but the image or idea of one. As a mere idea (which Descartes fatally took as his starting point), we can easily doubt the reality of the real lion. This is a grossly simplified statement of the epistemic starting point, but it is one that defines all subsequent inferences and that the entire body of modern scientific belief statements unavoidably presupposes and cannot get around, despite its seeming sophistication and proud claims.

            This epistemic split has so conditioned the rest of philosophical history that all arguments about the PSR are affected by it – making it most difficult even to make one’s vantage point intelligible to people with a vastly diverse background.

            There. I think you may have gotten more than you bargained for. And I hope that you and others on this thread can now understand why I am going to stop commenting, for the most part, about the PSR in this thread and move on to other projects.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I know you need to move on to other things for now, but sometime when you have a moment, I'd be curious to get your take on the following.

            As I understand him, Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age, argues that Cartesian dualism culminated a historical-intellectual dynamic that was in many ways set in motion by two central dogmas of Christianity: the Incarnation on the one hand, and God's sovereignty on the other.

            At the risk of extreme simplification, the proposed logic is, roughly: if God is actually present in this world, and if God is sovereign, then that leaves no room for magic, enchanted objects, evil spirits in the woods, etc. And so there was a somewhat predictable Christian dynamic of disenchantment. But, taken to an extreme, this disenchantment doesn't just remove evil spirits and the like from our ontology. It also removes all inherent power (or "nature") from everything in creation. Anything that stops short of that amounts to a denial of God's sovereignty. Fast forward a few centuries and we end up conceiving of creation as an inert machine, where nothing has its own inherent nature or its own inherent telos. It's all just God's machine, a la what later was identified as "deism". Except, one thing doesn't fit this schema: our own minds. Whatever modern neuroscientists may tell us, our minds, and the realm of subjective experience, do seem very un-machine-like. So we know we have to make room for minds in our ontology, but this category of being doesn't fit in machine-like creation. So poor Descartes has to conceive of mind and matter as wholly separate categories of reality.

            Anyway, assuming I haven't botched that too badly and something like that is correct, what do you think was the fatal flaw in that intellectual progression? We presumably don't want to deny the Incarnation, nor God's sovereignty.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just off the top of my head, yes, Descartes appeared utterly ignorant of hylemorphism, which led to his unfixable mind/body split, which in turn led to the division of Continental Rationalism from British Empiricism and Kant's subsequent botched attempt to fix the mess.

            I am not sure if this is the point you want addressed, but the answer was at hand from the time of Aristotle, who came up with form and matter as co-principles of substance, with neither of them being substances themselves. Descartes made mind an utterly distinct substance from the body. As science came more to understand how the brain worked, a separate spiritual substance like mind appeared to be more and more unneeded at all in order to explain either sentient or intellectual abilities. So, we were off and running into modern materialism.

            The general answer to all this is to realize that hylemorphism was correct in the first place, while creatures are given by God full secondary causality that enables them to perform their own acts, but not without God continuous creation of all creatures to sustain their natural activities.

            Let me know if this does not address your question adequately.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks.

            The historical dynamic that I am trying to better understand does seem to have a lot to do with the rejection of, or at least the the mis-construal of, secondary causality. There's something more that I think I want to ask about this dynamic and the way this rejection seems to have formulated (however errantly) in ostensibly very Christian terms (and apparently long before The Reformation) ... but I don't think I can articulate it well at the moment, so I'll hold off until another day.

          • Thank you, and thank you for engaging in discussion with myself and others on this site. It is refreshing to have the author respond.

            Sounds like there is a gulf of disagreement that is almost theological. Needless to say, I cannot help but suspect some bias from the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, as it seems specific to Christian and possibly Catholic philosophers.

            One thing I might note is that I do not think the statement "Modern philosophers vastly underestimate the validity of the insights
            of this classical tradition whose pinnacle was St. Thomas Aquinas..."

            I have been listening to the "Great Courses" lecture series "Great Ideas of Philosophy" by Daniel Robinson of Oxford and there was full episode (1of 60 mind you) on Aquinas and he was praised I believe more than any other mind discussed to that point.

            Thanks for your time.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am happy to hear about Professor Robinson. Still, there was a time, not long ago, when everything before Descartes was thought of as part of the "Dark Ages." And, if you read some of the comments even on this thread, you can see that that way of thinking is not entirely past.

  • Marty

    Dr Bonnette...very helpful discussion.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I had determined not to add further comments to this thread, but will make one last attempt to address what I see for some of you is a serious question: How can God’s free creation avoid flatly contradicting the principle of sufficient reason? Then I will leave further comments to others.

    I think I grasp the essence of the objections several have raised. Simply put, the argument is that, if God freely wills to create the world, either:

    1. This is a brute fact, having no sufficient reason, and therefore shows that the PSR is not universally true.

    OR....

    2. There is a sufficient reason for this choice and God is not actually free, but rather this “choice” flows from his nature necessarily.

    St. Thomas argues that God being a necessary being does not entail that his choices flow from his nature necessarily :

    “Although God necessarily wills His own goodness, He does not necessarily will things willed on account of His goodness; for his goodness can exist without other things.” Summa Theologiae I, q. 19, a. 3, ad. 2.

    The key objecting insight seems to be that, if the free choice has a sufficient reason, then it cannot be really free. While St. Thomas shows that such a free choice need not flow necessarily from the divine nature, one still wonders then from what it does flow, unless there is some sufficient reason for this choice rather than that one, and then the “freedom” appears to be illusory.

    The answer lies in the fact that God is truly the First Cause and that his eternal free choice is not moved to act at all. It is never not in act. So, there is no problem of reduction from potency to act. There is no unfolding “decision process” to be gone through.

    God exists necessarily because his essence is one with his act of existence. He is his own sufficient reason for being. In light of the divine simplicity, God's nature is one with its acts. This perfect unity entails, as St. Thomas says, both necessary and non-necessary aspects. Therefore, his non-necessary act to create is no more lacking a sufficient reason than is God himself. Since a brute fact is defined as something that has no sufficient reason, there are no brute facts here.

    What flows from that eternal Pure Act flows necessarily with respect to necessary things and non-necessarily with respect to non-necessary things, which latter aspect of the divine being means the same thing as being free and acting freely. The sufficient reason for both necessary and non-necessary aspects is the same divine nature. God’s will flows necessarily from his nature in that he has a will. By definition a will is free with respect to what it can choose, and God can freely choose non-necessary goods.

    God’s choice to create this unique world is not random or without reason, since good reasons for this particular world can be posited and God would certainly know them. But why are these reasons selected as the basis for this actual creation as opposed to other possible ones – or even the choice never to have created anything at all? The sufficient reason for that selection is the free choice that necessarily flows from God’s non-necessary relation to goods that are inferior to his own necessarily willed divine goodness.

    The demand for a God A vs. God B explanation is not legitimate, since it assumes that all that is in God must flow necessarily from his nature. This misses the non- necessary choice of lesser goods. To demand to know whether God acts necessarily or not is to demand a yes or no answer to a question requiring a complex answer. God acts necessarily with respect to those things that he wills necessarily, such as the divine goodness, but he acts non-necessarily with respect to those things that are not necessary, such as goods less than the divine goodness -- including creation of the world.

    As St. Thomas points out, the only necessity respecting God’s free creative act is a suppositional necessity. If God has freely chosen to create this unique world, then it is necessary that he has made this choice as opposed to any other. But that does not mean that he had to make this choice, since from all eternity, he has freely chosen this particular creation in a non-necessary manner.

    There is but one true God. Any hypothetical “God B” may sound like a logical possibility, but it is not a real possibility. You cannot prove any conclusion against God if one of your premises entails the hypothesis (God B) of something that does not and cannot actually exist, and is in fact metaphysically impossible -- given that the one true God can be proven already to have existed from all eternity and that his free will choice to create this unique world is already manifest. You can only have one God at a time -- and eternity had no "time" at which this unique God did not exist! No other "God" was ever even an hypothetical possibility in fact.

    God necessarily exists and necessarily is free with respect to creating lesser goods than his own goodness. We now know what choice he makes, since we are among the creatures he has elected from all eternity to make and we now see his creation in act.

    But this in no way affects the fact that his choice to create this world of lesser goods is both perfectly free and perfectly in conformity with the principle of sufficient reason.

    I was taught always to give the best possible reading to any text. I can understand how hard that must be in this case for those who think the Christian God is absurd to begin with. Still, a careful reading of the above depiction of how God can freely create this world without any violation of the principle of sufficient reason should find it coherent, unless it is misread.

    In any event, I have nothing further to add to this thread.

  • Eric

    "The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will make you an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you." allegedly attributed to Werner Heisenberg (father of Quantum Physics)

  • Yet theists themselves claim God is his own explanation, the same term mentioned here, aseity. Does it not also violation this principle of sufficient reason? I'm also not aware of anyone who claims things came from literal nothing. That seems like it is a strawman argument.

    Similarly, sight enables us to see even though there is no adequate explanation as to how this is actually possible. (Biological explanations alone do not actually explain sensory experience.)

    This needs to be justified. As it stands, this is a mere assertion.

    • SpokenMind

      Hi Michael,

      What is your perspective regarding the existence of the universe? Is it eternal, did it have a beginning, or something else?

      Peace.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Before we worry about what is and isn't a person, we should probably try better understand what prosopon referred to in the context in which that formulation of Trinitarian doctrine was worked out. The fact that -- as I understand it -- the early councils were willing to use prosopon and hypostasis almost interchangeably is probably a hint that the words were meant to accomplish something slightly different than what we usually want to accomplish with the modern word "person".

    It is true that the Holy Spirit seems to be spoken of in less personal terms (using imagery of wind, or fire, or a dove, for examples), as compared to the first and second person of the trinity. But again, I'm not sure that that invalidates the personhood of the Holy Spirit in the technical theological sense. In any case, the "practical" essence of the idea seems to be that a Christian should relate to all three "persons" of the Trinity in personal terms: that is, it should be an intimate subject-to-subject type relationship, rather than an impersonal subject-to-object type relationship.

  • Are the god of philosophy and the Biblical God one and same? The Biblical God takes personal responsibility for both reward and punishment. The god of philosophy has a problem of evil.

  • Hope

    Because we must provisionally and methodologically stipulate to the PSR doesn't make it ontologically necessary, it only makes us epistemically unfortunate if it's not.

    Metaphysical presuppositions like the first principles, PSR, PSC and predicating being of existence can serve us as methodological stipulations without requiring us to necessarily accept them as ontological commitments.

    The regularities we observe could be novel emergent realities, both temporally & spatially very local, in an eternally dynamical reality. In a process conception of reality, a notion like motion, change or novelty might best serve as our metaphysical root metaphor rather than more static ones like being or substance.

    Whether our dynamical account of these causes would fall prey to the fallacy of composition or not, we cannot a priori say and may not necessarily be able to a posteriori access.

    If indeed the PSR does not hold beyond our local emergent reality, it does not mean that reality is wholly unintelligible. Not being comprehensible as a whole would not keep reality from being intelligible, in part.

  • "Any version of PSR worthy of the name must entail that there are no “brute facts”, no facts that are in principle unintelligible, no facts for which there is not even in principle an explanation. The “in principle” here is important – that there might be facts that our minds happen to be too limited to grasp is not in question.” As per http://disq.us/p/1mncbql

  • Martyn Cornell

    "Consider again the basic truth that from nothing, nothing comes to be."

    So where did God come from?

    All you've done is push the problem one stage further back, by proposing an "uncaused causer". Ockham's Razor is not infallible, but it suggests that invoking "God the uncaused causer" is overcomplicating matters, when it's simpler to say "the universe itself is uncaused". And the absence of any other evidence for a deity would suggest that is the more likely explanation.

  • kathleen Ronning

    Dr. Bonnette-it is a joy to have found you. I attended NU from 78-81 and had the absolute pleasure of being one of your students. My recollection is that you were a tough professor which made any affirmations I received from you more meaningful. It is a shame that your knowledge was transferred to me while I was so young. How I wish I could go back in time and attend your class as a 50 something! I hope you are doing well! Kindest Regards-Kathleen Fagan

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Hi Kathleen,

      I wish I could tell you that I recall your name, but with thousands of students over the years that would be a stretch. I might well recognize you in person, though. Although pushing 80 myself now, I am still busy -- as you can see. Check out my web site at drbonnette.com Also, I am still teaching at 6:30 Friday nights at Mt. St. Mary's Hospital in Lewiston at a free school started by my late dear friend, Dr. Raphael Waters, whom you may also have known. Aquinas School of Philosophy's web site is aquinasphilosophy.com Our classes are open to anyone, should you still be in the area. There is contact information on the school's web site, but I am not sure it works.

      • kathleen Ronning

        I certainly wouldn't expect you to remember me as it is so long ago and too many people to recall but I wanted to let you know I had such fond memories of your class along with Fr. Vincent O'Malley's. I wish I could attend your school but I live outside of Philadelphia. Stay well--I am sure your intellectual pursuits are contributing to your longevity!!

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Funny you mention Fr. O'Malley. He sometimes says Mass at St. Bernard's in Youngstown for us. Sorry you live so far away. I would have loved to see you in my class again! I pray you a long and happy life.